The Russian government reportedly communicated with U.S. Treasury Department officials through a Gmail back channel as it attempted to gain financial documents about its enemies in places such as America.

BuzzFeed News, citing documents, reported that this correspondence arose during the final year of the Obama administration. The news outlet notes that this communication occurred during a time period when Moscow tried to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.


Agents from Russia asked Treasury officials for private financial documents on at least 24 dissidents, academics, private investigators and American citizens, according to BuzzFeed News.

The news outlet highlights that Russia requested documents on Dirk, Edward and Daniel Ziff, investors whose relationship with the Kremlin had soured.

The request happened only weeks before a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Kremlin-connected lawyer who promised "dirt" on 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Shontel Brown wins Ohio Democratic primary in show of establishment strength READ: Cuomo's defense against sexual harassment investigation MORE.

The lawyer also offered the campaign intelligence about Clinton’s supposed connections to the Ziffs, according to BuzzFeed News.

BuzzFeed noted that while these requests were being made, Treasury officials were utilizing government emails to communicate with a network of private Hotmail and Gmail accounts set up by Russians.

The government officials communicated this way instead of using a secure network normally utilized when exchanging information with foreign nations.

Supervisors within the Treasury Department were reportedly warned in 2016 that Russians were conducting a “fishing expedition” as part of their correspondence. Among other things, analysts at an agency within the Treasury worried that their internal system could be compromised.

Despite the repeated warnings, staff at the department continued to use the Gmail backchannel into 2017, according to the report.

The Treasury Department declined to comment to BuzzFeed on why its officials communicated with foreign officials in this fashion. It also declined to say if it handed over any documents as part of the requests.

“Treasury does not discuss or comment on confidential communications with foreign governments, including to confirm whether or not they have occurred,” a spokesperson said to the news outlet. “We have notified our Office of the Inspector General of these allegations.”

The Hill has reached out to the Treasury Department for comment.

Communications via a backchannel between Russia and Treasury caused alarm at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, according to documents reviews by BuzzFeed News. 

The news outlet noted that officials at the unit reported the use of a back channel to Treasury’s counterterrorism unit and security office in 2016. Officials in the unit claimed to BuzzFeed that there was no substantive probe of the matter.