“Cohen’s potential financial crimes were in the process of being scrubbed from the system, whitewashed from the record.”
A recent string of disclosures about payments made to bank accounts linked to Michael Cohen and his shell company, Essential Consultants, used to pay off porn star Stormy Daniels, raised a host of new legal questions for the longtime personal lawyer to Donald Trump. Namely, did payments made to Cohen by companies with something to gain from the federal government, like Novartis and AT&T, amount to thinly veiled bribes? Then there was the question: how did this information become public? Was it federal investigators? The Mueller team? Someone related to the Stormy Daniels case?
Turns out it was none of the above, according to a New Yorker report published Wednesday, which reports instead the source of the financial records was someone perhaps indicative of something larger and more worrisome — a whistleblower. The law enforcement source leaked financial reports, called “suspicious-activity reports (SARS),” stored in a government database chronicling Cohen’s financial activity because they were beginning to disappear. The official could no longer find two SARS filed on Cohen; much of what has been reported over the last week is derived from a SARS filed by First Republic Bank, where’s Cohen’s Essential Consultants had an account. The report referenced two previous SARS filed by the bank, which, according to the New Yorker’s source, were now missing from the financial database of suspicious transactions maintained by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FINCEN. […]
The financial warning signs were there and the suspicious-activity reports appeared to have done their job in flagging potentially illicit activity. This is not an uncommon occurrence in the world of white collar crime and intricate financial investigations; its proximity to the president, however, is unique. That proximity, it appears, prompted the whistleblower to act and disclose the remaining financial documents for fear that Cohen’s potential financial crimes were in the process of being scrubbed from the system, whitewashed from the record. The disclosure carries with it the possibility of up to five years in prison and a significant fine, but the official, knowing the potential consequences, decided it was a risk worth taking.
“To say that I am terrified right now would be an understatement,” the official said of the potential legal consequences. “We’ve accepted this as normal, and this is not normal,” the official said of the disappearing documents. “Things that stand out as abnormal, like documents being removed from a system, are of grave concern to me… This is a terrifying time to be an American, to be in this situation, and to watch all of this unfold.”