Fox News has reported that ex-Treasury Department official Natalie Edwards pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in a federal court on Monday. Edwards leaked confidential information on individuals associated with the Trump campaign.
Edwards could face up to half a decade in prison, although prosecutors recommended a sentence of no more than 6 months as part of her plea agreement.
Leaks targeted Paul Manafort
At the time of her arrest over a year ago, Edwards was found in possession of a USB flash drive containing Suspicious Activity Reports, or “SARs.” Financial institutions are required by law to file SARs when they encounter questionable financial transactions.
The SARs were tied to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Prosecutors pointed out that Edwards had no legitimate reason to have them on her person the time. In addition to the SARs, she was also in possession of “highly sensitive material relating to Russia, Iran, and the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”
In her guilty plea, Edwards admitted that “I agreed to disclose a SAR knowing I was not allowed under the law to disclose it.”
Leaks to Buzzfeed
As evidence of her guilt, prosecutors noted that media articles had been written using the material that Edwards leaked.
One was a Buzzfeed piece called, “GOP Operative Made ‘Suspicious’ Cash Withdrawals During Pursuit of Clinton Emails.” In it, authors Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier claimed to have gained access to government documents.
Another published in October of 2017 was titled, “These 13 Wire Transfers Are A Focus of the FBI Probe Into Paul Manafort.”
It stated that “BuzzFeed News has learned of a series of wire transfers, made by companies linked to Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, that federal officials deemed suspicious. Many of the wires went from offshore companies controlled by Manafort to American businesses.”
“I am sorry for what I have done and I apologize to you, your honor, and the court,” Edwards said.
Leaking has been a problem within the Trump White House, something that The Hill quoted senior advisor Kellyanne Conway as lamenting.
“I don’t understand why people would come to work in the White House or in the administration … and really try to curry their image or try to hurt other people whom the president has asked them to work with,” Conway said in 2018.