March 04,2019

Grassley Presses Treasury, IRS for Accountability in Handling of Banking Information

Leaks, incomplete responses to congress jeopardize integrity of investigations

WASHINGTON – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is calling on the Treasury Department to explain why it omitted bank records sought in a congressional inquiry into Russian influence that were later leaked to the news media. Grassley also wants to know what steps the IRS is taking to hold accountable an employee who leaked sensitive banking information related to Michael Cohen.
“Sensitive banking information should be kept under lock and key to protect Americans’ personal privacy, and access should be limited to official investigative matters. The reckless treatment of this information and investigative inquiries jeopardizes that privacy and risks undermining ongoing investigations. And withholding information from congressional inquiries while leaking that same type of information to the media cannot be tolerated.  Those entrusted with managing this information need to do a better job of protecting privacy, guarding against damaging leaks and complying with congressional investigations,” Grassley said.
In response to a September 2017 records request related to a Senate Judiciary Committee investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) provided a number of suspicious activity reports (SARs). Treasury noted that the production included all records relevant to Grassley’s request. However, a recent BuzzFeed report included SAR information that was not previously produced to the committee. In a February 27 letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Grassley called on Treasury to produce any relevant records omitted from the initial production and explain why it did not provide the material pursuant to the initial request.
Previous leaks relating to Grassley’s September 2017 request for FinCEN records resulted in the inappropriate public disclosure of that request, which could have tipped off targets of the probe. Last year, Grassley referred this leak to Treasury Department Inspector General Eric Thorson for investigation.
In a separate matter, Grassley called on the IRS to detail how it is holding accountable an employee who admitted to leaking sensitive SARs related to attorney Michael Cohen, which were later made public. In a February 26 letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Retting, Grassley sought information on any involvement the IRS may have had in the reportedly lenient plea agreement offered to the employee.