On The Money: Treasury official charged with leaking info on ex-Trump advisers | Trump to seek 5 percent budget cut from Cabinet members | Mnuchin to decide by Thursday on attending Saudi conference

On The Money: Treasury official charged with leaking info on ex-Trump advisers | Trump to seek 5 percent budget cut from Cabinet members | Mnuchin to decide by Thursday on attending Saudi conference
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Happy Wednesday and welcome back to On The Money, which unfortunately does not have imminent plans to launch its own artificial moon. I'm Sylvan Lane, and here's your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

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THE BIG DEAL--Treasury official charged with leaking info on ex-Trump advisers: A senior official working for the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has been charged with leaking confidential financial reports on former Trump campaign advisers Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortLewandowski refuses to say whether Trump has offered him a pardon Democrats return to a battered Trump Manafort's legal team argues NY prosecution constitutes double jeopardy MORE, Richard Gates and others to a media outlet.

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Prosecutors say that Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, a senior adviser to FinCEN, photographed what are called suspicious activity reports, or SARs, and other sensitive government files and sent them to an unnamed reporter, in violation of U.S. law.

Edwards is being charged in the Southern District of New York with one count of unauthorized disclosures of suspicious activity reports and one count of conspiracy to make unauthorized disclosures of suspicious activity reports, both of which carry a maximum five years in prison. The Hill's Morgan Chalfant and I fill you in here.

 

The allegations:

  • Edwards is accused of leaking reports about suspicious transactions made by Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, and Gates, Manafort's longtime business partner who also served on the Trump campaign and the transition team.
  • Federal prosecutors have also accused Edwards of leaking sensitive financial information related to the case of Maria Butina, the Russian woman charged with illegally acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government.
  • The complaint does not name the news organization to which Edwards sent the information from the documents, but lists the headlines of six articles published by BuzzFeed News between October 2017 and as recently as Monday that prosecutors allege were based on the leaks.

 

The significance:

  • The charges are the latest indication of the Trump administration's efforts to root out alleged leakers within the government, which prosecutors emphasized in announcing the charges on Wednesday.
  • The alleged leak announced Wednesday would be the second major suspected breach at FinCEN reported this year, after a federal law enforcement official told The New Yorker in May that he leaked SARs on a shell company set up by Michael Cohen, Trump's former attorney, after two similar bank records appeared to be missing from the FinCEN database.

 

LEADING THE DAY

Trump to request 5 percent cut from Cabinet members: President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE on Wednesday said he was planning on asking every Cabinet secretary to cut 5 percent from their budgets.

"We're going to ask every secretary to cut 5 percent for next year," he said ahead of a Cabinet meeting. 

Trump blamed Democrats for the increase in spending.

"Last year, the first year, I had to do something with the military. The military was falling apart, it was depleted, it was in very bad shape, and that's why we went for two years, $700 billion, $716 billion," he said.

"I had to give the Democrats, I call it 'waste money,' things I would never have approved, but we had to do that in order to get the votes because we don't have enough Republican votes to do that without them," he continued.

The bipartisan spending bill included increases of $80 billion in defense spending and $63 billion in nondefense spending for 2018, with an additional $5 billion for each in 2019. For comparison, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the tax law would add $164 billion to the 2018 deficit after economic growth was taken into account.

When asked if the request would apply to the Pentagon, Trump seemed to indicate it would not, saying its budget would likely remain at the same levels he cited earlier.

The Hill's Niv Elis tells us more here.

 

Reminder: Congress routinely ignores the annual White House budget proposal, so don't expect Trump's request to make it into government funding legislation.

 

Mnuchin to decide by Thursday whether to attend Saudi conference: Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOvernight Defense: Trump hits Iranian central bank with sanctions | Trump meeting with Ukrainian leader at UN | Trump touts relationship with North Korea's Kim as 'best thing' for US Trump says he's sanctioning Iran's national bank Lawmakers run into major speed bumps on spending bills MORE told reporters Wednesday that he intends to decide by Thursday whether to attend an economic summit in Saudi Arabia.

Mnuchin said at a Treasury press event that he still plans to attend the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh next week, but is waiting to hear the results of Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump Senate Judiciary Committee requests consultation with admin on refugee admissions State Department's top arms control official leaving MORE's meeting with Saudi and Turkish officials.

"We're going to revisit the decision again tomorrow," Mnuchin said, according to a CNN report. "So for now we are. We're going to make a decision tomorrow based on Secretary Pompeo's report."

Mnuchin has faced pressure from lawmakers to drop out of the conference, known as "Davos in the Desert," as officials investigate what happened to missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioLiberal super PAC launches browser extension replacing 'Mitch McConnell' with 'Moscow Mitch' Trump faces difficult balancing act with reelection campaign Republicans wary of US action on Iran MORE (R-Fla.) said Sunday that the U.S. can't conduct "business as usual" in the wake of Khashoggi's disappearance, and said Mnuchin should not go to Riyadh.

Since then, Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake donates to Democratic sheriff being challenged by Arpaio in Arizona The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says US-China trade talks to resume, hails potential trade with Japan, UK Joe Arpaio to run for Maricopa County sheriff in 2020  MORE (R-Ariz.), Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSenators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir Congress set for chaotic fall sprint Overnight Defense: Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sales | Two US troops killed in Afghanistan | Senators tee up nominations, budget deal ahead of recess MORE (R-Ind.) and John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) have each said Mnuchin should drop out of the event. Multiple Democrats have said the same. The Hill's Brett Samuels fills us in here.

 

Senate Democrats are also asking President Trump and the Trump Organization to disclose any ties to Saudi Arabia, as well as freeze any potential business relationships, in the wake of the disappearance of the U.S.-based journalist.

 

GOOD TO KNOW

 

ODDS AND ENDS