Treasury adviser appears in court on leak charge

Treasury employee accused of leaking confidential banking reports of suspects charged in Mueller probe

"Each of the SARs Disclosures related to matters relevant to investigations being conducted by the Office of the Special Counsel" and other units looking at the Russia investigation, "such as suspicious transactions relating to Paul Manafort, Richard W. Gates, Russian diplomatic accounts, and other matters", the complaint stated, rattling off the name of President Donald Trump's former campaign manager, and a top aide, both of whom are now cooperating with the probe led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Edwards, a senior adviser at the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, has been charged with unlawfully disclosing suspicious activity reports and conspiring to do so.

According to the government, the material included reports on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and political consultant Richard Gates, as well as Maria Butina, who is accused of trying to infiltrate US political organizations as a covert Russian agent.

New York-based BuzzFeed has reported extensively on SAR documents connected to Butina, Manafort and others. A lawyer for Edwards could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Justice Department did not release the reporter's identity, but charging documents listed almost a dozen articles published by BuzzFeed News over the past year and a half.

A spokesman for BuzzFeed declined to comment.

Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, was convicted in August on eight bank and financial fraud charges stemming from Robert Mueller's Federal Bureau of Investigation probe.

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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.

SARs "are not public documents, and it is an independent federal crime to disclose them outside of one's official duties", said Geoffrey Berman, the US Attorney for Manhattan. The judge prohibited her from having any contact with an unnamed co-conspirator at FinCEN who is referenced in the complaint or with the reporter to whom she is accused of leaking the material. The complaint suggested they were able to see she was messaging the reporter despite their use of the encrypted app, which was not identified.

Prosecutors say the evidence was still on her cell phone, when she was arrested.

On Wednesday, the judge in Virginia said Edwards's next court appearance will be in NY, prior to November 2.

According to the complaint, Edwards admitted to sending photos of the suspicious activity reports to the reporter, known as "Reporter-1", during an interview with agents investigating the leaks, after initially denying communications with the media.

Disclosing such documents outside the scope of work is a felony that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Treasury officials requested additional information from law enforcement agencies in other countries, and they prepared numerous and extensive reports about Manafort's financial dealings.

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