CONTACT: Jordan Libowitz
202-408-5565 | [email protected]
Washington—The Inspector General for the Treasury Department (OIG) should investigate the possibility that documents concerning President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen were improperly removed from a database maintained by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), according to a complaint filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
Yesterday, The New Yorker reported that the source of the documents, “a law-enforcement official, … had grown alarmed after being unable to find two important reports on Cohen’s financial activity in a government database.” In particular, the source stated that a “suspicious activity report” (SAR) filed by First Republic Bank, where the account of Mr. Cohen’s shell company received payments, referred to two earlier SARs the bank had filed flagging additional suspicious transactions totaling more than three million dollars. However, according to the source, these earlier SARs were not available in the FinCEN database. The source asserted that the unavailability of SARs in the database is highly unusual, and the fact that some reports involving Cohen were missing while another was available is concerning.
“The possibility that such documents were improperly removed is an extremely troubling one,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “This information is critical to effective law enforcement, so it is essential that OIG immediately and thoroughly investigates its possible compromise.”
While there may be an innocent explanation for why the documents are missing from the database, based on the facts that have been made public in recent days, there is reason to think that these SARs may be relevant to significant potential criminal conduct, and OIG should thoroughly investigate the possibility that the reports were improperly removed from FinCEN’s database.
“Interference with law enforcement processes for improper purposes could pose a threat to the rule of law, and any such risk to the ability of law enforcement agencies to protect the public must be addressed swiftly and strongly,” Bookbinder said.