Treasury Officials Think the Department is Intentionally Slow-Walking Requests by Senate Investigators on Trump-Russia: Report

Treasury has been unwilling to provide some documents and produced others in a deliberately complex form.

Photo Credit: DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

“Follow the money” was the key piece of advice provided by the source known as Deep Throat to reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward as they worked to unravel the actions behind Watergate. For more than a year now, the Senate Intelligence Committee has been trying to follow a similar path in the investigation of the Trump—Russia scandal. But they’ve run into a roadblock. It’s not complex fiscal transactions hiding behind numbered accounts at Cyprus-based banks. It’s the Treasury Department.

According to BuzzFeed, the slow-walking of information available to Treasury is so bad, that even people within the department believe that it is intentionally trying to block the investigation. 

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.

Treasury has been unwilling to provide some documents, produced others in a deliberately complex form, and refused to provide the expertise needed to unravel what it has provided. It’s enough that emails authored by the department’s own Financial Crimes Enforcement Network discussed whether Treasury was attempting to block the investigation. 

FinCEN staffers also report that they were told not provide documents on “certain individuals” when requested by the Senate—an order that originated from senior Treasury officials. The BuzzFeed source does not name which specific individuals were on the “do not provide” list, but it might be assumed that one of them might also be on the list of individuals who did not release their tax returns to the public.

According to FinCEN staffers, some documents requested by the Senate have still not been provided. This wasn’t a problem on the House side for a very simple reason: the House didn’t ask for anything. Every single subpoena of fiscal documents requested by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee was blocked by not-really-recused Republican Devin Nunes.

But where House Republicans are busily plotting to impeach Rod Rosenstein for failing to keep up with document requests running into the hundreds of thousands of pages and endangering FBI sources, both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate side have been so far content to send the Treasury Department a moderately-worded note “expressing concern that FinCEN hadn’t responded to its earlier requests.”

Additional communications show the Senate agreeing to “narrow the scope” of document requests, and limit the range of their use, in order to break the logjam at Treasury. 

Senate Intelligence Committee Democrat Rob Wyden has encouraged the leaders of the committee to hold public hearings on both “the financial relationships between Donald Trump and his associates and Russia” and “the president’s go-to money person,” Michael Cohen. But while other topics have been lined up for discussion, “the money” is not one of them.

If it’s being followed, it’s being done out of sight. 


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Mark Sumner is the author of the nonfiction work "The Evolution of Everything" as well as several novels including "Devil's Tower."