Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told Congress Tuesday he has no role in the inspector general probe into the leak of confidential bank records of Michael Cohen’s finances, but that the investigation will be sweeping and thorough.
“I personally have not been involved in any of the procedures or anything associates with this,” Mnuchin said in a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee about the internal Treasury investigation into the publication of some suspicious activity reports (SARs) documenting huge payoffs to President Trump’s onetime personal lawyer.
The probe was announced last week after the New Yorker published an interview with a law enforcement official who claims to have leaked the documents after noticing they were missing from a database maintained by the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The New Yorker’s sources said that it was extraordinarily unusual for SARs to be inaccessible.
A FinCEN spokesperson said at the time that access to specific SARs is sometimes restricted at the request of prosecutors conducting ongoing investigations. Mnuchin reiterated that point at Tuesday’s hearing.
“I am not making any comments whether this was or was not done as it relates to these specific SARs, but I want to comment that FinCEN does have a long-standing policy of accommodating the enforcement agencies on that,” he said.
The SARs detailed a complex web of payments to and from a shell company operated by Cohen. Multinational corporations channeled money to Trump’s longtime fixer in exchange for his purported access to the administration, while Cohen funneled funds to an adult film star who alleges she had an affair with the President.
Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, working off of a referral from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, are investigating Cohen for a host of financial crimes.
Public-interest groups and a handful of Democratic lawmakers have been pushing Mnuchin to recuse himself from any matters linked to Russia’s 2016 election interference because he served as finance chair of Trump’s campaign. The Democrats, led by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), re-upped this call in a May 18 letter chastising Mnuchin for failing to address their questions.
The Treasury secretary’s silence, they wrote, suggested that he was “attempting to obstruct our efforts to uncover potential criminal activity by the President and those in his inner circle.”
At Tuesday’s hearing, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) pressed Mnuchin on whether the inspector general was focusing not just on leaks but on any possible “inappropriate interference” with the inaccessible SARs. Mnuchin insisted that the scope of the probe was broad.
“They are reviewing everything associated with the information of the SARs, both the technology issues, the issues around logging,” Mnuchin said. “I can assure you that they are doing a thorough review because this system of SARs is absolutely critical to our entire FinCEN effort and we need to make sure that it is in no way at risk.”