Ex-Treasury official sentenced to 6 months in prison for leaking banking documents related to the Mueller probe

Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, center, leaves court after receiving a six-month prison sentence for leaking confidential financial reports to a journalist at Buzzfeed, Thursday June 3, 2021, in New York.
Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, center, leaves court after receiving a six-month prison sentence for leaking confidential financial reports to a journalist at Buzzfeed, Thursday June 3, 2021, in New York.

  • Former Treasury Department official Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards was sentenced to six months in prison on Thursday.
  • Her sentencing comes more than a year after she pleaded guilty and admitted to leaking confidential documents to Buzzfeed News.
  • The banking files were related to figures tied to Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, including Paul Manafort.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A former Treasury Department official was sentenced to six months in prison on Thursday for leaking tens of thousands of pages of confidential financial documents to Buzzfeed News, the media publication reported.

Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, 42, pleaded guilty last year, admitting she leaked Suspicious Activity Reports related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the US election.

Leaked documents included reports on former President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his associate Rick Gates, the Russian Embassy, and Maria Butina.

Edwards also leaked documents that became part of the FinCEN files, which were covered by a consortium of more than 100 international news organizations. The project exposed potential corruption in the global banking system and led several counties to reform their financial laws.

Suspicious Activity Reports, or SARs, are highly confidential documents that banks submit to the Treasury Department when they notice potentially suspect financial activity.

As a senior department official, Edwards had access to those filings and ultimately sent more than 50,000 pages’ worth to BuzzFeed News reporter Jason Leopold. The indictment, which federal prosecutors in Manhattan first brought in 2018, didn’t mention Leopold by name but cited the articles he wrote about the Mueller investigation and FinCEN files.

Edwards pleaded guilty in 2020, though her sentencing was repeatedly delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. At Edwards’s sentencing hearing Thursday, her defense attorney Stephanie Carvlin said Edwards leaked the files as a whistleblower because the Treasury Department wasn’t properly handling them, according to Politico.

In a statement Thursday, BuzzFeed News spokesperson Matt Mittenthal condemned the six-month sentence from US District Court Judge Gregory Woods.

“Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards is a brave whistleblower,” Mittenthal told Politico. “She fought to warn the public about grave risks to America’s national security, first through the official whistleblower process, and then through the press. She did so, despite tremendous personal risk, because she believed she owed it to the country she loves.”

On Twitter, Leopold said the leaks played a valuable public service.

“Natalie Edwards made these disclosures despite tremendous personal risk, because she believed she owed it to the country she loves,” Leopold wrote. “Her disclosures has helped to inspire major financial reform and legal action in the United States, the EU, and countries around the world.”

The sentencing comes at a moment when the Justice Department is under scrutiny for secretly seizing the records of journalists at The New York Times, CNN, and The Washington Post during Donald Trump’s administration in order to investigate leaks. It’s not clear whether, as part of its investigation, the department obtained phone records from Leopold.

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Michael Flynn reportedly shot down an offer to be Donald Trump’s chief of staff because of legal debts from the Russia investigation

Michael Flynn
  • Donald Trump reportedly wanted Michael Flynn to be his chief of staff in the final weeks of his term.
  • Flynn was the short-tenured former national security advisor who pled guilty to misleading the FBI during the Russia investigation.
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In the final days of his term, President Donald Trump considered making Michael Flynn his chief of staff, according to the New York Times

Flynn was the former national security advisor who was fired just weeks into the job.

He pleaded guilty in December 2017 to one count of lying to investigators as part of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Specifically, he admitted to misleading FBI investigators in a January 2017 interview about his communications with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the US at the time, during the 2016 transition period.

Trump in November pardoned him

“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon,” Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”

A month later, Trump floated the idea of bringing Flynn back into the White House, with just weeks to go before the transition to the Biden administration, the Times reported. 

At a White House meeting, Trump said he wanted Flynn to look over the FBI. He also considered establishing Flynn as his chief of staff, according to the Times. 

It’s unclear whether Trump was serious about the suggestions, the Times reported. Flynn declined the offers because he wanted to pay down the legal debts from participating in the Russia investigation. 

In the public eye, Flynn has continued to be one of Trump’s most ardent supporters. He was booted off Twitter in January, after using the platform to urge Trump to use martial law to overturn the results of the presidential election.

Joe Biden won the election in November. But in the weeks following, Trump and his supporters – like Flynn – continuously made baseless allegations of fraud to try an make Americans believe the results were invalid. 

Flynn has also been one of most visible backers of QAnon conspiracy theory movement. In 2019, he was scheduled to speak at a QAnon-organized conference.

Flynn leveraged his QAnon fanbase to pay down the legal bills he amassed during the Russia investigation, the Times reported. Flynn has been selling merchandise like T-shirts and hats featuring the “Where we go one, we go all” QAnon motto. 

– Additional reporting by Sonam Sheth.

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