Treasury agency: Access to records such as Cohen's is sometimes restricted

Treasury agency: Access to records such as Cohen's is sometimes restricted
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A Treasury Department agency charged with policing financial crimes on Thursday said it limits internal access to bank records amid questions about its management of reports tied to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat MORE’s lawyer, Michael Cohen.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) told The Hill in a Thursday statement that “under longstanding procedures,” the agency “will limit access to certain [Suspicious Activity Reports] SARs when requested by law enforcement authorities in connection with an ongoing investigation."

FinCEN did not say whether the limited access applies to records on Cohen, who is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York for possible bank fraud, among other things.

FinCEN’s statement comes a day after a federal law enforcement official told The New Yorker that he leaked suspicious activity reports on a shell company set up by Cohen after two similar bank records appeared to be missing from the agency’s database.

FinCEN investigates money laundering and other financial crimes. Its work includes reviewing federally mandated SARs from banks on unusual transactions of more than $10,000.

Those reports are fiercely protected, so the leak is seen as stunning breach of FinCEN’s secrecy.

“In any event, government employees and law enforcement personnel with access to the system are not authorized to publicly disclose SARs, and, as previously reported, Treasury’s inspector general is looking in whether any SARs were improperly disclosed,” the FinCEN spokesperson said.

Rich Delmar, counsel for the Treasury Department’s inspector general, told The Hill the office is also preparing to investigate the management of the FinCEN database. He said last week that the inspector general office would also probe how Avenatti obtained the bank records.

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."

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.

Updated at 6:03 p.m.