New Report Suggests Trump Admin. Officials Could Be Actively Working to Thwart the Russia Investigation

New Report Suggests Trump Admin. Officials Could Be Actively Working to Thwart the Russia Investigation
President Donald J. Trump takes time to shake hands with Guardsmen and guests before departing the Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s 171st Air Refueling Wing in Coraopolis, Pa. Jan. 18, 2018. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Senior Airman Kyle Brooks)

Insofar as Congress had made a serious effort to investigate Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, Trump administration has hardly been cooperative.

Indeed, according to a new report from BuzzFeed News, civil servants in the Treasury Department voiced concern last year that their department was deliberately seeking to prevent the Senate Intelligence Committee from tracking down financial records of key actors in the Russia affair:

Last year, Treasury rejected the committee’s request for help from one of its experts, even as Treasury officials have speculated — behind closed doors — that the Senate committee would not be able to follow the twisting financial trail laid out in the documents they had turned over, a path that often passes through offshore shell companies or untraceable cash transactions.

In emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News, personnel within Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, discussed in 2017 whether Treasury was trying to thwart the committee’s investigation. Additionally, some FinCEN personnel questioned whether they had the proper legal authority to share confidential information about US persons with committee staffers.

Senators on the Intelligence Committee first asked the Treasury Department to disclose financial information on Trump and his associates last year. Democratic members of the committee have openly expressed frustration with how slowly the department has cooperated with them.

A spokesman for FinCEN refused to give BuzzFeed a detailed response to the story, saying "We don’t discuss the specifics of requests related to committee investigations."

But the Treasury Department's purported desire to undermine the Russia investigation squares with a pattern of apparent politically motivated refusals to embrace transparency.

Last month, the department announced that the IRS would no longer force tax-exempt dark-money political groups to report the names of certain donors in their filings. This information was not even public to begin with — it was simply used to help the IRS record where political money was coming from — but apparently, even this slightest gesture at disclosure was too much for the Trump administration.

The American people — and indeed, the people working at the Treasury who have voiced concerns — deserve answers about whether a major arm of government is doing its job and following the money, or whether it is rolling over in the face of potentially serious financial crimes.

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