politics

U.S. Treasury Asks If Cohen Bank Records Were Improperly Leaked

Michael Cohen arrives for a court hearing at the U.S. Courthouse in New York on April 16.

Photographer: Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

A day after revelations about money flows into an account set up by President Donald Trump’s longtime attorney, the U.S. Treasury’s internal watchdog is reviewing whether confidential banking information was improperly leaked.

“We are conducting an inquiry into possible improper dissemination of Bank Secrecy Act information,” said Rich Delmar, a spokesman for the Treasury’s inspector general, adding that the review is “predicated on information that was in the New York Times article earlier this week.”

The Times cited banking records in an article about money flows into an account opened in October 2016 by Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen. The article also cited a report prepared by Michael Avenatti, a lawyer whose client, Stephanie Clifford, is locked in litigation with Trump.

Avenatti’s report outlined payments from AT&T Inc., Novartis AG and a company linked to a Russian billionaire to the account -- which Cohen also used to pay $130,000 to Clifford, a porn actress known as Stormy Daniels, to keep quiet about her alleged tryst with Trump. His report was widely cited by media.

Under the Bank Secrecy Act, financial institutions are required to report suspicious transactions to the Treasury. Unauthorized disclosure of these so-called suspicious-activity reports is a criminal offense.

In televised remarks Tuesday, Avenatti said that First Republic Bank had filed three SARs to the U.S. Treasury related to the Cohen account. The Treasury had declined Avenatti’s request to release those documents, Avenatti told MSNBC.

The Treasury review was reported earlier by the Washington Post.

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