Ses­sions’ in­ves­ti­ga­tors find leaker at Trea­sury

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY JEFF MORDOCK

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­fort to root out leak­ers in the fed­eral gov­ern­ment bagged a top-level Trea­sury em­ployee who was charged last week with giv­ing a re­porter con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion about sus­pi­cious fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions in­volv­ing for­mer Trump cam­paign of­fi­cials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, ac­cused Rus­sian agent Maria Butina and the Rus­sian Em­bassy.

Natalie Mayflower Sours Ed­wards, 40, of Quin­ton, Vir­ginia, a se­nior ad­viser in Trea­sury’s Fi­nan­cial Crimes En­force­ment Net­work, or FinCEN, was ar­rested on charges of leak­ing nu­mer­ous sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity re­ports to a re­porter, said prose­cu­tors with the South­ern Dis­trict of New York.

She “be­trayed her po­si­tion of trust by re­peat­edly dis­clos­ing highly sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion con­tained in Sus­pi­cious Ac­tiv­ity Re­ports (SARs) to an in­di­vid­ual not autho­rized to re­ceive them,” said Ge­of­frey Ber­man, U.S. at­tor­ney for the South­ern Dis­trict of New York.

The jour­nal­ist, who was not iden­ti­fied, wrote roughly a dozen ar­ti­cles that in­cluded de­tails from the re­ports, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments. Buz­zFeed re­porters Ja­son Leopold and An­thony Cormier have by­lines on ar­ti­cles cited in the 18-page crim­i­nal com­plaint. How­ever, court doc­u­ments did not iden­tify Buz­zFeed or the re­porters.

The ar­ti­cles de­tailed sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity re­ports re­lated to in­di­vid­u­als who have been caught up in spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian col­lu­sion with the Trump cam­paign, in­clud­ing for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Manafort and Gates, a for­mer Trump cam­paign deputy chair­man. Re­ports of sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity by diplo­mats also showed up in the ar­ti­cles.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions is pri­or­i­tiz­ing the weed­ing-out of gov­ern­ment leak­ers, say­ing that an­i­mos­ity to­ward Pres­i­dent Trump is fu­el­ing the ris­ing num­ber of leaks.

“My view when I came here was that there was way too much leak­ing, but it re­ally seemed to ac­cel­er­ate when Pres­i­dent Trump be­came pres­i­dent,” he told The Wash­ing­ton Times this week.

Al­though Ms. Ed­wards’ mo­tives are not known, Mr. Ses­sions told The Times that Jus­tice De­part­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tors have un­cov­ered “a po­lit­i­cal quo­tient” among the leak­ers.

Mr. Trump last year de­manded that the Jus­tice De­part­ment take tougher ac­tion on leak­ers, and Mr. Ses­sions re­sponded by vow­ing to in­crease pros­e­cu­tions.

“When I came, there were three open leak in­ves­ti­ga­tions. We raised that to 27 in the first year,” Mr. Ses­sions said.

Ms. Ed­wards was ar­rested the same week that for­mer FBI agent Terry Al­bury was set to be sen­tenced for leak­ing in­for­ma­tion about the bu­reau’s mon­i­tor­ing of mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties to the In­ter­cept news­pa­per.

Also this week, for­mer Se­nate staffer James Wolfe pleaded guilty to ly­ing to fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors about his re­la­tion­ships with re­porters. Al­though Mr. Wolfe was not ac­cused of leak­ing in­for­ma­tion to the press, he was snared in the FBI’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the dis­clo­sure of con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion re­lated to Trump cam­paign fig­ure Carter Page.

Court doc­u­ments say Ms. Ed­wards took pho­tographs of the fi­nan­cial re­ports and texted them to the re­porter over an en­crypted email. She also shared in­ter­nal FinCEN emails and other non-pub­lic re­ports from Oc­to­ber 2017 through this month, prose­cu­tors said.

When she was ar­rested, Ms. Ed­wards had a flash drive that ap­peared to con­tain the un­law­fully dis­closed re­ports, a cell­phone con­tain­ing nu­mer­ous com­mu­ni­ca­tions over an en­crypted ap­pli­ca­tion and “other sen­si­tive gov­ern­ment in­for­ma­tion,” prose­cu­tors said.

“The ma­jor­ity of the files were saved to a folder on the flash drive en­ti­tled ‘De­ba­cle — Op­er­a­tion-CF,’ and sub-fold­ers bear­ing names such as ‘De­ba­cle\Emails\Asshat,’” the com­plaint said.

“Ed­wards is not known to be in­volved in any of­fi­cial FinCEN pro­ject or task bear­ing these file ti­tles or code names.”

FinCEN’s sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity re­ports are used to alert of­fi­cials about fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions that could be re­lated to a crime such as money laun­der­ing. It’s a felony for gov­ern­ment work­ers to dis­close re­ports or con­tent out­side of their work scope.

Ms. Ed­wards ini­tially de­nied to the FBI that she had con­tacts with re­porters but later ad­mit­ted to shar­ing FinCEN in­for­ma­tion, the com­plaint said.

She was ar­rested one day af­ter Buz­zFeed pub­lished a story about a loan TD Bank pro­vided to a sub­sidiary of Rus­sian-owned Preve­zon Hold­ings de­spite red flags. Buz­zFeed cited FinCEN records in the ar­ti­cle, which also men­tioned Manafort, Ms. Butina and a Rus­sian de­vel­oper.

Ms. Ed­wards faces one count of un­law­fully dis­clos­ing sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity re­ports and one count of con­spir­acy to dis­close those re­ports. Each count car­ries a max­i­mum sen­tence of five years in prison.

She ap­peared be­fore a judge in an Alexan­dria, Vir­ginia, court. She was re­leased on $10,000 bail and or­dered to re­port be­fore a fed­eral judge in New York next month. In ad­di­tion, Ms. Ed­wards is barred from us­ing FinCEN equip­ment or speak­ing with FinCEN em­ploy­ees.

Rowan Scar­bor­ough con­trib­uted to this re­port.


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