Top watchdog calls for a Treasury Department inspector general investigation into missing Michael Cohen documents

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesMichael Cohen.
  • A top watchdog group is calling for an investigation into the reported missing documents related to President Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen’s financial dealings.
  • The call came after an explosive New Yorker report on the documents.
  • “The possibility that such documents were improperly removed is an extremely troubling one,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.

A top government watchdog group on Thursday called for an investigation into reportedly missing Treasury Department documents related to President Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen.

The call came after an explosive New Yorker report on Wednesday, in which the government official who allegedly leaked Cohen’s financial information to the media said he did so because other documents related to Cohen mysteriously went missing from a Treasury Department database.

“The possibility that such documents were improperly removed is an extremely troubling one,” said Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW. “This information is critical to effective law enforcement, so it is essential that OIG immediately and thoroughly investigates its possible compromise.”

CREW requested that the Treasury Department’s inspector general look into the matter.

On Wednesday night, the whistleblower who leaked the still-existing financial information said other Suspicious Activity Reports, or SARs, banks had filed related to Cohen were missing from the Treasury Department’s database.

The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow spoke with that official, who detailed his concerns about the FinCEN database. The two reports the whistleblower couldn’t find detailed larger quantities of money being paid to Cohen, he said. One report was for “a little over a million dollars” and another for “suspect transfers totaling more than two million dollars.”

This absence was unusual, the official said.

“I have never seen something pulled off the system. … That system is a safeguard for the bank,” he said. “It’s a stockpile of information. When something’s not there that should be, I immediately became concerned.”

On Thursday afternoon, a FinCEN spokesperson released a statement saying that “under longstanding procedures,” the office “will limit access to certain SARs when requested by law enforcement authorities in connection with an ongoing investigation.”

“In any event, government employees and law enforcement personnel with access to the system are not authorised to publicly disclose SARs, and, as previously reported, Treasury’s Inspector General is looking into whether any SARs were improperly disclosed.”

The end of that statement was a reference to last week’s announcement that the Treasury Department’s inspector general announced it was investigating whether someone internally leaked the documents to porn star Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti, who initially published information on Cohen’s financial dealings after the 2016 presidential election.

Rich Delmar, counsel to the inspector general, told The Washington Post that the office was “inquiring into allegations” that reports were leaked.

Cohen’s dealings become a central focus

Michael AvenattiDrew Angerer/Getty ImagesMichael Avenatti.

Cohen’s post-election financial dealings burst onto the scene last week when Avenatti released information that showed companies paid Cohen lucrative sums in exchange for his services following the presidential election.

The companies, which sought Cohen’s proximity to and knowledge of Trump, paid Cohen more than $US1.2 million through his company, Essential Consultants LLC. That is same firm he created to facilitate a $US130,000 hush money payment to Daniels, who has alleged she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and is suing Cohen. The information Avenatti revealed could land Cohen, who is under criminal investigation but has not been charged, in more legal trouble.

Avenatti’s report detailed payments Cohen received from telecom titan AT&T, pharmaceutical giant Novartis, the Russian-tied investment firm Columbus Nova, and Korea Aerospace Industries. The companies all subsequently confirmed the payments they made to Cohen through Essential Consultants LLC. Avenatti did not make clear how he obtained the information.

Avenatti, meanwhile, has been agitating for the release of other Suspicious Activity Reports.

“Why is no media outlet doing a story on the refusal of the Treasury Department to release to the public the 3 Suspicious Activity Reports that were filed concerning Essential Consultants, LLC’s bank account?” he tweeted. “This deserves immediate attention. The SARs should be released now.”

“The confidentiality concern here is ZERO,” he said in a subsequent reply. “Mr. Cohen learned that a SAR had been filed when the WSJ reported on it months ago. The SARs should be released to the public now.”

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