Donald Trump has consistently claimed that a “deep state” of liberal civil servants are criminally leaking against him. However, the first official to be arrested for alleged leaks under his presidency appears to be a Trump supporter, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, a senior adviser at the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), is accused of leaking information about private citizens’ bank transactions, called Suspicious Activity Reports. Edwards provided a reporter with data that was used in 12 articles, the Department of Justice alleges.
Edwards and “an unnamed co-conspirator” (whom the WSJ identified as FinCEN colleague Kip Brailey) were allegedly in contact with the reporter for a year. Brailey’s attorney told the WSJ that Brailey, “is not a co-conspirator with anyone.”
Edwards is the first civil servant to be arrested for leaking under Trump’s tenure but not the first employee; NSA contractor Reality Winner was jailed for five years in early 2018 for leaking a classified file to the Intercept.
Social media activity suggests that Edwards’ alleged leaks were not motivated by partisanship. Both Edwards and Brailey regularly shared posts attacking liberals and sympathizing with Trump, the WSJ reports. Edwards reportedly “liked” an article calling Trump critic and former CIA director John Brennan a “hack,” and called sexual assault allegations against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh “false” and said they set a bad precedent. Brailey apparently retweeted a message calling Hillary Clinton a liar and posts from women who said they didn’t vote for her in 2016.
It’s not clear what Edwards’ motivations would have been. The files she allegedly leaked included bank records for former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and former senior campaign aide Rick Gates. Manafort has been convicted of bank and tax fraud, and pled guilty to conspiracy against the United States; Gates has pled guilty to lying to the FBI. Both men are cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s attack on the 2016 elections.
Edwards reportedly told investigators she was a “whistleblower” and said that she leaked the files to the press for “record keeping.”