From FoxNews: 40-year-old Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, the top Treasury Department employee who was arrested late Tuesday and charged by federal authorities with leaking confidential financial documents pertaining to former Trump officials was apprehended with a flash drive containing the allegedly pilfered information in her hand, prosecutors said Wednesday.
The senior official at the department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), is charged with illegally giving a reporter bank reports documenting several suspicious financial transactions, known as Suspicious Activity Reports (“SARs”), from October 2017 to the present. The financial transactions involved Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort, campaign official Richard Gates, accused Russian agent Maria Butina and the Russian Embassy, federal law enforcement officials said Wednesday.
An unidentified, higher-ranking Treasury colleague was cited in court papers as a co-conspirator with Edwards, but was not charged. That person, identified only as an “associate director” at FinCEN to whom Edwards reported, exchanged more than 300 messages with a reporter via an encrypted messaging application.
Edwards saved the SARs, “along with thousands of other files containing sensitive government information,” to a government-provided flash drive, prosecutors said. She transmitted the SARs to the reporter by “taking photographs of them and texting the photographs” using an encrypted application, according to charging documents.
During her interviews with FBI agents, Edwards called herself a “whistleblower” who saved the SARs for “record-keeping,” according to the criminal complaint against her. Prosecutors said Edwards had previously filed an unrelated whistleblower complaint, and had been in touch with congressional staffers regarding that complaint.
The journalist’s name Edwards allegedly spoke with was not disclosed in court papers. But the documents list about a dozen stories published by Buzzfeed News over the past year-and-a half, including an article headlined, “GOP Operative Made ‘Suspicious’ Cash Withdrawals During Pursuit of Clinton Emails.” A spokesman for Buzzfeed declined to comment.
In a hearing Wednesday afternoon, federal magistrate judge Theresa Buchanan released Edwards on her own personal recognizance on Wednesday, subject to the custody of her parents. She and her parents also signed a $100,000 bond as part of her release. Edwards, who appeared in court wearing street clothes, faces two charges, each one carrying a maximum sentence of five years and a $250,000 fine. She is due back in court Nov. 2.
Edwards is currently on administrative leave at Treasury, FinCen spokesman Steve Hudak said. Banks must file the suspicious activity reports with the Treasury Department when they spot transactions that raise questions about possible financial misconduct such as money laundering. When federal agents confronted Edwards this week, she described herself as a whistleblower and said she had provided the reports to the reporter for “record-keeping,” the court papers said.
“In her position, Edwards was entrusted with sensitive government information. As we allege here today, Edwards violated that trust when she made several unauthorized disclosures to the media,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a statement. “Today’s action demonstrates that those who fail to protect the integrity of government information will be rightfully held accountable for their behavior.”
Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, where the criminal complaint was filed, said Edwards “betrayed her position of trust by repeatedly disclosing highly sensitive information.” Edwards is alleged to have taken photographs of the confidential documents and sent them to a reporter using an encrypted messaging app, according to court documents. Edwards also sent the reporter internal Treasury Department emails, investigative memos and intelligence assessments, prosecutors allege.