A former high Treasury Division official pleaded responsible Monday to conspiracy for leaking confidential banking reports related to members of the Trump marketing campaign, following her dramatic arrest in October 2018 as she toted a flash drive stuffed with delicate paperwork.
Natalie Edwards, 41, entered the plea in Manhattan federal courtroom, the place U.S. District Choose Gregory H. Woods set sentencing for June 9. Though the conspiracy cost carried a possible penalty of as much as 5 years in jail, Edwards signed a plea cope with prosecutors that beneficial a possible jail sentence of zero to 6 months.
Edwards was a senior adviser at Treasury’s Monetary Crimes Enforcement Community, often known as FinCEN. Prosecutors mentioned her crime started in October 2017 and continued for a yr, with Edwards sending a BuzzFeed Information reporter quite a few Suspicious Exercise Reviews (“SARs”). Banks should file SARs with the Treasury Division after they spot transactions elevating questions on potential monetary misconduct comparable to cash laundering, however federal regulation strictly restricted their disclosure.
The SARs associated to wire transfers made by Paul Manafort and different figures in former Particular Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, together with marketing campaign official Richard Gates, Maria Butina and the Russian Embassy.
As regulation enforcement swooped in, she was carrying a government-issued USB flash drive containing not solely 1000’s of SARs, but additionally “extremely delicate materials referring to Russia, Iran, and the terrorist group often known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” prosecutors mentioned.
“Edwards isn’t identified to be concerned in any official FinCEN undertaking or activity bearing these file titles or code names,” prosecutors mentioned on the time.
“I’m sorry for what I’ve finished and I apologize to you, your honor, and the courtroom,” Edwards mentioned.
Her arrest got here on the heels of different high-profile, leak-related prosecutions beneath the Trump administration, which had pledged to go on the offensive towards leakers whom the president has referred to as “traitors and cowards.”
Prosecutors pointed to a few dozen associated tales printed by BuzzFeed Information over the previous year-and-a-half, together with an article headlined, “GOP Operative Made ‘Suspicious’ Money Withdrawals Throughout Pursuit of Clinton Emails.”
One other article was titled, “These 13 Wire Transfers Are A Focus of the FBI Probe Into Paul Manafort.”
She transmitted the SARs to the reporter by “taking images of them and texting the images” utilizing an encrypted utility, in keeping with charging paperwork, which confirmed that Edwards ultimately confessed to doing so. FBI brokers obtained a pen register and trap-and-trace order for Edwards’ cellphone throughout their investigation.
Edwards moreover despatched or described to the BuzzFeed Information reporter inner authorities emails or correspondence associated to the experiences and investigative memos and intelligence assessments printed by her company’s intelligence division, prosecutors mentioned.
When the decide requested her if she knew she was committing a criminal offense, Edwards mentioned she didn’t “know of the regulation” on the time however she knew concerning the federal Whistleblower Safety Act.
After consulting along with her lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, she mentioned she admitted that she agreed to reveal the SARs.
She added: “I used to be not allowed beneath the regulation to reveal it.”
Exterior courtroom, Agnifilo mentioned the case illustrated how “one’s subjective motivations actually don’t function a protection.”
“I’m sorry for what I’ve finished and I apologize to you, your honor, and the courtroom.”
He mentioned prosecutors had been “in all probability of the view that she was extra politically motivated than she was for some conception like the great of our republic.”
Agnifilo mentioned his consumer believed “sure vital info” weren’t being dealt with in the fitting means by the federal government businesses tasked with dealing with them.
“She mentioned: ‘You already know, if I can not belief authorities officers to deal with this, I believe I can belief the media to deal with this and to deliver this to the eye of the American individuals,'” the lawyer mentioned.
Agnifilo mentioned Edwards was involved with congressional subcommittees and others in authorities however did not consider they had been dealing adequately with the data she supplied.
In a launch, U.S. Lawyer Geoffrey S. Berman mentioned Edwards violated the integrity of the system of suspicious exercise experiences counting on banks and different monetary establishments alerting regulation enforcement to probably unlawful transactions.
The Related Press contributed to this report.