Here’s what I know so far about Avenatti’s information and Cohen’s suspicious-activity reports:
Last week, several news outlets obtained financial records showing that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, had used a shell company to receive payments from various firms with business before the Trump Administration. In the days since, there has been much speculation about who leaked the confidential documents, and the Treasury Department’s inspector general has launched a probe to find the source. That source, a law-enforcement official, is speaking publicly for the first time, to The New Yorker, to explain the motivation: the official had grown alarmed after being unable to find two important reports on Cohen’s financial activity in a government database. The official, worried that the information was being withheld from law enforcement, released the remaining documents.
The payments to Cohen that have emerged in the past week come primarily from a single document, a “suspicious-activity report” filed by First Republic Bank, where Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants, L.L.C., maintained an account. The document detailed sums in the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Cohen by the pharmaceutical company Novartis, the telecommunications giant A.T. & T., and an investment firm with ties to the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
Michael Avenatti, an attorney representing Clifford, who has released summaries of Cohen’s transactions on social media, said, “The Treasury Department should release all of the sars immediately to the American public.”
The identity of the law enforcement official who supplied details of Michael Cohen’s banking activities to media-savvy lawyer Michael Avenatti probably won’t remain secret for long, according to people who work in the field.
Anyone who gains access to the government’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network database of bank-generated suspicious activity reports, known as SARs, leaves an audit trail, they explained. So whoever searched for FinCEN reports filed against personal or business accounts associated with Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, left a digital record that is almost certainly under review.
Records pertaining to the financial activities of President Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen are not missing from a government database; rather Treasury Department officials have taken the highly unusual step of restricting access to them even from certain law enforcement agencies, according to three sources familiar with the matter.
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