A senior employee at the U.S. Treasury Department has been arrested on suspicion of leaking large amounts of confidential information, most notably financial reports related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion in it with the Trump campaign.
The woman, Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, was arrested in Virginia Tuesday. She was charged with unauthorized disclosure of suspicious-activity reports filed by banks and other financial institutions. She had been a senior adviser at Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network or FinCEN division.
“Disclosing nonpublic, sensitive information you learn as a government employee may jeopardize an investigation or case; prejudice a defendant’s rights; or unfairly damage a person’s reputation,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to employees of inspector-general offices from federal agencies today before Edwards’ arrest was announced.
“It also can violate federal laws, employee nondisclosure agreements and individual privacy rights. In some cases, it may put a witness or law enforcement officer in danger. Those leaks undermine public confidence and harm innocent people.”
Combating leaks has been one of Rosenstein’s top priorities during his tenure. “Preventing inappropriate disclosures of confidential information is one of the important issues I focused on during the past year,” he said.
Edwards is accused of serving as a source for media outlets and providing them with details on financial transactions including some that may have funded Russian interference efforts during the 2016 election. Some of the leaked financial transactions also involve close associates of President Trump, such as his former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Information leaked by Edwards reportedly served as the basis for eleven stories published by the news website BuzzFeed, with the most recent one published this past Monday.
The FBI questioned Edwards Tuesday and carried out a court-ordered search warrant for her cellphone as well as her person. Warrants granting authorities the right to search her personal email account, as well as her telephone records, had previously been granted.
Edwards initially denied having any contact with members of the media but subsequently admitted to transmitting numerous Suspicious Activity Reports or SAR’s, to a reporter.
Each of the charges Edwards is facing carries a potential penalty of 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. She was released on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond to the custody of her parents this afternoon.
Photo by NCinDC via Flickr