In the latest indication of the Trump administration’s efforts to root out alleged leakers, a senior Treasury Department official working in the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN), Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, has been charged with leaking confidential financial reports to the media concerning former Trump campaign advisers Paul Manafort and Richard Gates, according to The Hill.
Prosecutors say that Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, a senior adviser to FinCEN, photographed what are called suspicious activity reports, or SARs, and other sensitive government files and sent them to an unnamed reporter, in violation of U.S. law. –The Hill
Suspicious Activity Reports are filed by banks in order to confidentially notify law enforcement of potentially illegal financial transactions. The documents leaked by the Treasury official, which began last October, are reported to have been used as the basis for 12 news articles published by an unnamed organization.
While the news organization was not named in the complaint, it lists the headlines and other details of six BuzzFeed articles published between October 2017 to as recently as Monday which they allege were based on the leaks.
BuzzFeed reporters Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier are commonly listed on several of the articles referenced in the government’s complaint. (examples here, here and here).
Edwards has been charged with one count of unauthorized disclosures of SAR reports and one count of conspiracy to make unauthorized disclousres of SARs. She will be tried in the Southern District of New York, and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted on both charges.
When she was arrested, Edwards was in possession of a flash drive which was allegedly used to save the unlawfully disclosed SARs, as well as a cell phone “containing numerous communications over an encrypted application in which she transmitted SARs and other sensitive government information to Reporter-1.”
“We hope today’s charges remind those in positions of trust within government agencies that the unlawful sharing of sensitive documents will not be tolerated and will be met with swift justice by this Office,” said US Attorney Geoffrey Berman in a statement.
According to the criminal complaint, agents in the Treasury inspector general’s office detected “a pattern” of unauthorized media disclosures of the sensitive financial files beginning in October 2017 and continuing for a year. The disclosures were related to matters being investigated either by special counsel Robert Mueller, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York or the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
They included leaks about suspicious transactions made by Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, and Gates, Manafort’s longtime business partner who also served on the Trump campaign and the transition team. Both individuals were charged in connection with Mueller’s Russia investigation last October with crimes stemming from their foreign lobbying activity. Both have since decided to plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller’s probe. –The Hill
Could Manafort now make the case that unauthorized media leaks saturating national headlines baised the jury against him?
Edwards is also accused of leaking sensitive financial information regarding Russian national, Maria Butina, who was charged with acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government.
The alleged leak announced Wednesday would be the second major suspected breach at FinCEN reported this year, after a federal law enforcement official told The New Yorker in May that he leaked SARs on a shell company set up by Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, after two similar bank records appeared to be missing from the FinCEN database. –The Hill
Edwards is also accused of sending the reproter internal FinCEN emails, investigative memos and intelligence assessments.
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