Treasury watchdog considering probe of Cohen bank records management

Treasury watchdog considering probe of Cohen bank records management
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The Treasury Department's internal watchdog is considering a request to probe the alleged disappearance of records from bank accounts held by President TrumpDonald John TrumpConservatives express concern over House GOP immigration bill Poll: McSally holds 14-point lead in Arizona GOP Senate primary Trump defends Nielsen amid criticism over family separations MORE’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Verizon, AT&T call off data partnerships after pressure | Tech speaks out against Trump family separation policy | T-Mobile, Sprint make case for B merger AT&T, Verizon say they'll stop sharing location data with third-party brokers The Memo: Child separation crisis risks ‘Katrina moment’ for Trump MORE (Ore.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, asked the Treasury inspector general to investigate whether suspicious activity reports on Cohen’s bank accounts were removed from a closely guarded Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) database, citing a New Yorker story this week alleging as much.

"We have received Senator Wyden’s request that we look into how FinCEN manages the SAR database, and are developing our plan to carry out the request," Rich Delmar, counsel to the Treasury inspector general, told The Hill.

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FinCEN, an agency housed under the Treasury Department, investigates money laundering, illicit finance and other financial crimes. The agency also reviews suspicious activity reports from banks on questionable transactions of more than $10,000.

A federal law enforcement official told The New Yorker that he leaked suspicious activity reports from accounts held by Cohen after noticing two other similar records were missing from a FinCEN database. 

Suspicious activity reports from accounts maintained by a shell company set up by Cohen were leaked last week and revealed by Michael Avenatti, the attorney for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who is suing Trump and Cohen. The Associated Press reported on documents that backed up most of the records that Avenatti shared, but Cohen has disputed specific allegations.

The New York Times also reported last week that Cohen's bank records revealed hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from corporations seeking insight on access to the Trump administration.

Delmar said last week that the office would probe how Avenatti obtained the bank records.

Wyden, also a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is also seeking to investigate the matter himself. The senator asked FinCEN Director Ken Blanco on Thursday for copies of any bank records, including suspicious activity reports, pertaining to Cohen.

Wyden also asked Blanco to confirm whether Cohen’s bank records were removed from the FinCEN database and, if so, to explain why.

Sources cited by The New Yorker said the removal of records from the FinCEN database would be "nearly unprecedented." A former prosecutor told The New Yorker that FinCEN could have restricted access to Cohen's bank records "because of the highly sensitive nature of a potential investigation."

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonprofit government watchdog, also asked the Treasury inspector general to investigate the “extremely troubling” New Yorker allegations.

“Interference with law enforcement processes for improper purposes could pose a threat to the rule of law, and any such risk to the ability of law enforcement agencies to protect the public must be addressed swiftly and strongly,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder.