Saturday, May 25, 2024

Exclusive: A veteran FBI agent told Congress that investigations into Giuliani and other Trump allies were ‘suppressed’

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The J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington, DC.

Alex Brandon/AP

An FBI veteran said his superiors suppressed investigations of Trump, Insider can exclusively reveal.
“Are we going to do public corruption or not?” the whistleblower told Insider.
He said his boss ordered him to stop investigating Giuliani and the Trump White House.

A veteran FBI counterintelligence agent says his supervisor told him to stop investigating Rudy Giuliani and to cut off contact with any sources who reported on corruption by associates of former President Donald Trump, according to a whistleblower complaint obtained by Insider.

The agent, who served 14 years as a special agent for the bureau, including a long stint in Russia-focussed counter-intelligence, claims in a 22-page statement that his bosses interfered with his work in “a highly suspicious suppression of investigations and intelligence-gathering” aimed at protecting “certain politically active figures and possibly also FBI agents” who were connected to Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs.

Those figures, the statement claims, explicitly included “anyone in the [Trump] White House and any former or current associates of President Trump.”

The statement, which was prepared for staffers of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was apparently leaked and posted in mid-July to a Substack newsletter. Insider has independently obtained a copy of the complaint and verified its authenticity, but has not corroborated all of its claims.

In an interview with Insider, the whistleblower said he was motivated by a desire to improve the FBI, which he called “essential, as imperfect as it is,” because of its sweeping power to hold “policymakers accountable, whether they’re on the left or the right.”

“This is a decision point,” he said. “Are we going to do public corruption or not?”

Insider is withholding the name of the whistleblower because he has made claims about retaliation from the FBI, where he remains an employee, and because he is in the process of seeking whistleblower protections from Congress. 

“It’s highly unfortunate that this statement wound up being leaked and published,” said Scott Horton, an attorney representing the whistleblower. “We’re in the preliminary stages of a confidential process. I’m unable to make any other comment.” 

The whistleblower told Insider that he was finally ordered to stop investigating Giuliani and the rest of the Trump White House in August 2022, after months of what he says were persistent efforts to frustrate his work, at a meeting with three FBI supervisors at a bureau field office. Insider was able to confirm the agent’s account of the meeting with a second source with knowledge of what took place.

The meeting had been called to discuss the 14-year veteran’s job performance. As one of the bureau’s few Russian-speaking counterintelligence specialists, he maintained a network of overseas sources that had been utilized by agents across the country to investigate everything from money laundering to political corruption, according to his statement. He said his work had been recognised with eight consecutive years of “excellent” or “outstanding” performance appraisal reports running from 2010 to 2018,  and he had been tapped to help verify information obtained by investigators working for Robert Mueller during his time as special counsel.

But in the August 2022 meeting, he was called onto the carpet to discuss “performance issues and concerns” and given suggestions for how to improve, according to the agent’s account provided to lawmakers. The directions he received included a strict prohibition on filing intelligence reports relating to Giuliani or any other Trump associate.

The 2022 meeting was the culmination of what the agent viewed as a years-long effort to frustrate his investigations into potential wrong-doing by political figures in Trump’s circle, stretching back to Trump’s stint in the White House. In January 2022, he had filed an internal complaint under the Whistleblower Protection Act alleging “numerous acts of intelligence suppression of my reporting related ot foreign influence and the Capital riots, retaliatory acts and defamation of my own character.”

 

In one case, the statement says, the agent developed information from confidential informants that Giuliani had allegedly done paid work for Pavel Fuks, a Ukrainian oligarch and “asset of the Russian intelligence services.” (That charge was previously reported by Rolling Stone.) The whistleblower also looked into claims that Giuliani had fraudulently raised money from investors to produce a never-completed film about Joe Biden in the months before the 2020 election.

The agent’s reporting on Giuliani wasn’t received well in the bureau’s New York field office, his statement says. “In the midst of my reporting involving Giuliani, which had previously been identified by my supervisor as ‘high impact,’ my management told me they received a call from a supervisor in [the New York field office], who they did not identify,” the statement says. “This supervisor had taken issue with my reporting.”

The whistleblower says he doesn’t know who the upset supervisor was. But he blames “a group of people surrounding [Giuliani] with existing or historical ties to the bureau” for a pattern of “retaliatory action.”  The statement points to Charles McGonigal, the now-indicted former head of FBI counterintelligence in New York, as one possible source of the apparent “suppressive efforts.”

Spokespeople for Giuliani, Fuks, and Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment; nor did attorneys representing Fuks and McGonigal.

The FBI’s national press office declined to comment.

Not only did the agent’s superiors order them to stop working on these leads, according to the complaint and other documents reviewed by Insider, they also ordered, in early 2022, that the FBI informant who had provided the best intelligence on Giuliani’s activities be “closed” — cut off from further FBI contact. According to the statement, that order came from the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force or FITF, a headquarters-based unit established by Director Christopher Wray in 2017 and charged with combating foreign influence. 

It remains unclear how much of the friction described by the whistleblower’s statement stems from left versus right as opposed to field versus headquarters. The month the whistleblower’s bosses ordered him off Trumpworld investigations was a pivotal one for the Bureau’s investigations of the former president. On August 8, their agents executed a search warrant on Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, recovering over 100 records with classified markings that would become key evidence in his first federal indictment; a special counsel-led prosecution led to a second Trump indictment in early August over efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Giuliani too was raided by the FBI, in April 2021, although that probe concluded without charges in late 2022. 

Months before the agent was told to stop looking at Giuliani and the rest of Trump’s circle, he met with the same high-ranking supervisor to pass on information he had received from his confidential sources about Hunter Biden and his ties to Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that had paid Hunter Biden $83,333 a month to sit on its board. “My supervisors were delighted that I had collected this information about Burisma,” the agent wrote in his statement.

But when the agent tried to talk about what their sources had to say about Giuliani, his boss’s reaction was very different. The supervisor “forcefully interrupted me and ended my presentation,” he wrote.

The whistleblower’s story offers a different perspective than the one laid out by three other FBI whistleblowers who testified before the GOP-led Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, some of whom have admitted accepting financial support from right-wing groups. Those whistleblowers complained that the bureau was biased against Trump and his supporters, that the crackdown on January 6 insurrectionists went too far, and that they had faced retaliation from the bureau for their conservative views. 

In the interview with Insider, the new whistleblower said that he had approached the GOP subcommittee, led by Rep. Jim Jordan. But when the subcommittee’s staff learned from the whistleblower that the Hunter Biden information had been handled appropriately, their interest dwindled, the whistleblower said.

“The FBI made a diligent attempt to run the Biden material to the ground,” the whistleblower said. “It wasn’t slow-played. Chairman Jordan should not be using this as an example to show that the FBI is biased against the right.”

Russell Dye, a spokesperson for Jordan, denied the whistleblower’s allegations that the committee was cherry-picking witnesses who claimed to be able to implicate Biden.

“We would under no circumstance ever tell a whistleblower that we weren’t interested in their story,” Dye said. “We have had plenty of whistleblowers come forward about issues not relating to the President.” Dye said the committee was still weighing what to do with the information that the whistleblower had given them.

Even before the emergence of this new whistleblower, there has been ample evidence of individual FBI agents with pro-Trump partisan sympathies. Jared Wise, an FBI supervisor who left the bureau in 2017, now stands accused of joining the insurrectionists on January 6, 2021, breaking into the Capitol, and shouting “kill ’em! Kill ’em!” as rioters as they attacked the Capitol Police line.

Further up the chain of command, bureau leadership — perhaps intimidated by Trump’s “deep state” rhetoric and his treatment of former senior FBI personnel like James Comey and Peter Strzok — has resisted investigating the former president. A Washington Post investigation found that more than a year passed before the bureau formally opened a probe into connections between the Trump White House and the January 6 violence. Other reporting by the Post showed that senior FBI officials attempted to push back on plans by Justice Department prosecutors to search Mar-a-Lago without Trump’s permission. Some FBI agents were reportedly satisfied by an assertion made by Trump’s legal team that he’d turned over all his classified documents, and wanted to close the Mar-a-Lago government records investigation down.

The FBI is ideologically diverse and decentralized, with 35,000 employees spread out across 56 field offices from Anchorage to San Juan. The glimpse of one field office provided by the new whistleblower could be more indicative of a risk-averse bureaucracy struggling to balance its law-enforcement duties with its increasingly fragile public image than a politically motivated cover-up.

The whistleblower recounts how one of his sources, code-named Genius, had won the trust of racist extremists whom the bureau investigated for their role in the January 6 violence. Genius was able to do so because he had credibility on the far-right political fringe. Nevertheless, the whistleblower claims, the FBI ordered that the source be closed, supposedly for making the same kinds of “inappropriate” comments on social media that had earned him access to some of the leaders of the insurrection.

The agent’s decision to make a formal statement to Congress appears to have been a last resort. He previously approached the FBI’s internal ombudsman with his concerns. In December 2021, he submitted an official whistleblower complaint to the head of his field office. Under federal law, that complaint should have protected him from internal reprisals. But according to his account, his superiors responded with punishments, disciplining him for errors in paperwork and reassigning him to a new post outside of his longtime area of expertise, one that required a multi-hour commute from his home.

Those experiences, he told Insider, are part of what compelled them to share what he knows with Congress, not to harm the FBI but to improve and correct public misperceptions.

“There are people in the FBI who are biased,” he said. “We aren’t robots. But the bureau itself has integrity. It’s necessary. Despite the scars that I bear, I believe that the majority of my colleagues are doing the right thing.”

Mattathias Schwartz is Insider’s chief national security correspondent. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

Read the original article on Business Insider
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Share

The J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington, DC.

Alex Brandon/AP

An FBI veteran said his superiors suppressed investigations of Trump, Insider can exclusively reveal.
“Are we going to do public corruption or not?” the whistleblower told Insider.
He said his boss ordered him to stop investigating Giuliani and the Trump White House.

A veteran FBI counterintelligence agent says his supervisor told him to stop investigating Rudy Giuliani and to cut off contact with any sources who reported on corruption by associates of former President Donald Trump, according to a whistleblower complaint obtained by Insider.

The agent, who served 14 years as a special agent for the bureau, including a long stint in Russia-focussed counter-intelligence, claims in a 22-page statement that his bosses interfered with his work in “a highly suspicious suppression of investigations and intelligence-gathering” aimed at protecting “certain politically active figures and possibly also FBI agents” who were connected to Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs.

Those figures, the statement claims, explicitly included “anyone in the [Trump] White House and any former or current associates of President Trump.”

The statement, which was prepared for staffers of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was apparently leaked and posted in mid-July to a Substack newsletter. Insider has independently obtained a copy of the complaint and verified its authenticity, but has not corroborated all of its claims.

In an interview with Insider, the whistleblower said he was motivated by a desire to improve the FBI, which he called “essential, as imperfect as it is,” because of its sweeping power to hold “policymakers accountable, whether they’re on the left or the right.”

“This is a decision point,” he said. “Are we going to do public corruption or not?”

Insider is withholding the name of the whistleblower because he has made claims about retaliation from the FBI, where he remains an employee, and because he is in the process of seeking whistleblower protections from Congress. 

“It’s highly unfortunate that this statement wound up being leaked and published,” said Scott Horton, an attorney representing the whistleblower. “We’re in the preliminary stages of a confidential process. I’m unable to make any other comment.” 

The whistleblower told Insider that he was finally ordered to stop investigating Giuliani and the rest of the Trump White House in August 2022, after months of what he says were persistent efforts to frustrate his work, at a meeting with three FBI supervisors at a bureau field office. Insider was able to confirm the agent’s account of the meeting with a second source with knowledge of what took place.

The meeting had been called to discuss the 14-year veteran’s job performance. As one of the bureau’s few Russian-speaking counterintelligence specialists, he maintained a network of overseas sources that had been utilized by agents across the country to investigate everything from money laundering to political corruption, according to his statement. He said his work had been recognised with eight consecutive years of “excellent” or “outstanding” performance appraisal reports running from 2010 to 2018,  and he had been tapped to help verify information obtained by investigators working for Robert Mueller during his time as special counsel.

But in the August 2022 meeting, he was called onto the carpet to discuss “performance issues and concerns” and given suggestions for how to improve, according to the agent’s account provided to lawmakers. The directions he received included a strict prohibition on filing intelligence reports relating to Giuliani or any other Trump associate.

The 2022 meeting was the culmination of what the agent viewed as a years-long effort to frustrate his investigations into potential wrong-doing by political figures in Trump’s circle, stretching back to Trump’s stint in the White House. In January 2022, he had filed an internal complaint under the Whistleblower Protection Act alleging “numerous acts of intelligence suppression of my reporting related ot foreign influence and the Capital riots, retaliatory acts and defamation of my own character.”

 

In one case, the statement says, the agent developed information from confidential informants that Giuliani had allegedly done paid work for Pavel Fuks, a Ukrainian oligarch and “asset of the Russian intelligence services.” (That charge was previously reported by Rolling Stone.) The whistleblower also looked into claims that Giuliani had fraudulently raised money from investors to produce a never-completed film about Joe Biden in the months before the 2020 election.

The agent’s reporting on Giuliani wasn’t received well in the bureau’s New York field office, his statement says. “In the midst of my reporting involving Giuliani, which had previously been identified by my supervisor as ‘high impact,’ my management told me they received a call from a supervisor in [the New York field office], who they did not identify,” the statement says. “This supervisor had taken issue with my reporting.”

The whistleblower says he doesn’t know who the upset supervisor was. But he blames “a group of people surrounding [Giuliani] with existing or historical ties to the bureau” for a pattern of “retaliatory action.”  The statement points to Charles McGonigal, the now-indicted former head of FBI counterintelligence in New York, as one possible source of the apparent “suppressive efforts.”

Spokespeople for Giuliani, Fuks, and Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment; nor did attorneys representing Fuks and McGonigal.

The FBI’s national press office declined to comment.

Not only did the agent’s superiors order them to stop working on these leads, according to the complaint and other documents reviewed by Insider, they also ordered, in early 2022, that the FBI informant who had provided the best intelligence on Giuliani’s activities be “closed” — cut off from further FBI contact. According to the statement, that order came from the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force or FITF, a headquarters-based unit established by Director Christopher Wray in 2017 and charged with combating foreign influence. 

It remains unclear how much of the friction described by the whistleblower’s statement stems from left versus right as opposed to field versus headquarters. The month the whistleblower’s bosses ordered him off Trumpworld investigations was a pivotal one for the Bureau’s investigations of the former president. On August 8, their agents executed a search warrant on Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, recovering over 100 records with classified markings that would become key evidence in his first federal indictment; a special counsel-led prosecution led to a second Trump indictment in early August over efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Giuliani too was raided by the FBI, in April 2021, although that probe concluded without charges in late 2022. 

Months before the agent was told to stop looking at Giuliani and the rest of Trump’s circle, he met with the same high-ranking supervisor to pass on information he had received from his confidential sources about Hunter Biden and his ties to Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that had paid Hunter Biden $83,333 a month to sit on its board. “My supervisors were delighted that I had collected this information about Burisma,” the agent wrote in his statement.

But when the agent tried to talk about what their sources had to say about Giuliani, his boss’s reaction was very different. The supervisor “forcefully interrupted me and ended my presentation,” he wrote.

The whistleblower’s story offers a different perspective than the one laid out by three other FBI whistleblowers who testified before the GOP-led Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, some of whom have admitted accepting financial support from right-wing groups. Those whistleblowers complained that the bureau was biased against Trump and his supporters, that the crackdown on January 6 insurrectionists went too far, and that they had faced retaliation from the bureau for their conservative views. 

In the interview with Insider, the new whistleblower said that he had approached the GOP subcommittee, led by Rep. Jim Jordan. But when the subcommittee’s staff learned from the whistleblower that the Hunter Biden information had been handled appropriately, their interest dwindled, the whistleblower said.

“The FBI made a diligent attempt to run the Biden material to the ground,” the whistleblower said. “It wasn’t slow-played. Chairman Jordan should not be using this as an example to show that the FBI is biased against the right.”

Russell Dye, a spokesperson for Jordan, denied the whistleblower’s allegations that the committee was cherry-picking witnesses who claimed to be able to implicate Biden.

“We would under no circumstance ever tell a whistleblower that we weren’t interested in their story,” Dye said. “We have had plenty of whistleblowers come forward about issues not relating to the President.” Dye said the committee was still weighing what to do with the information that the whistleblower had given them.

Even before the emergence of this new whistleblower, there has been ample evidence of individual FBI agents with pro-Trump partisan sympathies. Jared Wise, an FBI supervisor who left the bureau in 2017, now stands accused of joining the insurrectionists on January 6, 2021, breaking into the Capitol, and shouting “kill ’em! Kill ’em!” as rioters as they attacked the Capitol Police line.

Further up the chain of command, bureau leadership — perhaps intimidated by Trump’s “deep state” rhetoric and his treatment of former senior FBI personnel like James Comey and Peter Strzok — has resisted investigating the former president. A Washington Post investigation found that more than a year passed before the bureau formally opened a probe into connections between the Trump White House and the January 6 violence. Other reporting by the Post showed that senior FBI officials attempted to push back on plans by Justice Department prosecutors to search Mar-a-Lago without Trump’s permission. Some FBI agents were reportedly satisfied by an assertion made by Trump’s legal team that he’d turned over all his classified documents, and wanted to close the Mar-a-Lago government records investigation down.

The FBI is ideologically diverse and decentralized, with 35,000 employees spread out across 56 field offices from Anchorage to San Juan. The glimpse of one field office provided by the new whistleblower could be more indicative of a risk-averse bureaucracy struggling to balance its law-enforcement duties with its increasingly fragile public image than a politically motivated cover-up.

The whistleblower recounts how one of his sources, code-named Genius, had won the trust of racist extremists whom the bureau investigated for their role in the January 6 violence. Genius was able to do so because he had credibility on the far-right political fringe. Nevertheless, the whistleblower claims, the FBI ordered that the source be closed, supposedly for making the same kinds of “inappropriate” comments on social media that had earned him access to some of the leaders of the insurrection.

The agent’s decision to make a formal statement to Congress appears to have been a last resort. He previously approached the FBI’s internal ombudsman with his concerns. In December 2021, he submitted an official whistleblower complaint to the head of his field office. Under federal law, that complaint should have protected him from internal reprisals. But according to his account, his superiors responded with punishments, disciplining him for errors in paperwork and reassigning him to a new post outside of his longtime area of expertise, one that required a multi-hour commute from his home.

Those experiences, he told Insider, are part of what compelled them to share what he knows with Congress, not to harm the FBI but to improve and correct public misperceptions.

“There are people in the FBI who are biased,” he said. “We aren’t robots. But the bureau itself has integrity. It’s necessary. Despite the scars that I bear, I believe that the majority of my colleagues are doing the right thing.”

Mattathias Schwartz is Insider’s chief national security correspondent. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

Read the original article on Business Insider
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