USA treasury official charged with leaking Trump-Russia information to reporter

USA treasury official charged with leaking Trump-Russia information to reporter

The Justice Department have charged a Treasury Department employee with giving a reporter confidential banking reports tied to suspects charged in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation investigation.

Natalie May Edwards, a senior adviser in the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), was arrested and charged with unauthorised disclosure of suspicious activity reports and with conspiracy, according to the office of US Attorney Geoffrey Berman.

Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney in Manhattan, where the criminal complaint was filed, said Edwards "betrayed her position of trust by repeatedly disclosing highly sensitive information".

Edwards and a "co-conspirator" who is not named in the complaint "exchanged approximately 301 messages with Report-1".

A BuzzFeed representative did not immediately return a call for comment, nor did a FinCEN spokesman.

According to the Washington Post, Edwards has already been released on $100,000 bond and will be expected to appear for a November 2 court date in the Southern District of NY. Each count could lead to a maximum five-year sentence.

A spokesman for the news organization declined to comment.

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In a criminal complaint, prosecutors allege Edwards saved the sensitive reports on a flash drive and sent photos of the documents to the reporter over an encrypted app. Prosecutors said Edwards was in possession of the flash drive when she was arrested, and her cellphone contained her communications with the reporter.

The type of reports Edwards is accused of leaking are filed confidentially by banks and other financial institutions to flag for law-enforcement entities what they believe are possibly illegal transactions.

The disclosures were reported in a series of articles in BuzzFeed related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of possible coordination between U.S. President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russian Federation, according to prosecutors.

The flash drive files "appear to contain thousands of SARs, along with other highly sensitive material relating to Russia, Iran, and the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant", the complaint charges.

Those reports - sent to FBI agents and federal prosecutors, and reviewed by BuzzFeed News - stated that Manafort appeared to be running shell companies and that his transactions often lacked a clear business objective and showed signs of "layering", meaning that they seemed created to obscure the original source of the money.

The press release doesn't identify the stories or the reporter but the criminal complaint lists the dates of more than 10 Buzzfeed stories and includes the headlines of some of them. On Wednesday, she confessed to leaking the reports but "falsely denied" knowing the SARs would be published, the complaint says.

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