Category Archives: World

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Biden: Trump ‘Coddles’ Autocrats Like Kim, Putin, Saudis

Former U.S. vice president Joe Biden says President Donald Trump may not “know what he’s doing” and coddles dictators.  

The potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate told CBS “This Morning” Thursday he’s concerned Trump “seems to have a love affair with autocrats” and “coddles” dictators, including North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the Saudi ruling family.

Biden says Trump either “doesn’t know what he’s doing or he has an absolutely convoluted notion” of America’s leadership in the world.

White House aides suggest that while Trump doesn’t criticize certain world leaders publicly, he’s willing to deliver tough messages behind closed doors.

Biden said he hopes Democrats don’t pursue Trump’s impeachment if the party takes over the House, saying, “I don’t think there’s a basis for doing that right now.”

 

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Biden: Trump ‘Coddles’ Autocrats Like Kim, Putin, Saudis

Former U.S. vice president Joe Biden says President Donald Trump may not “know what he’s doing” and coddles dictators.  

The potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate told CBS “This Morning” Thursday he’s concerned Trump “seems to have a love affair with autocrats” and “coddles” dictators, including North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the Saudi ruling family.

Biden says Trump either “doesn’t know what he’s doing or he has an absolutely convoluted notion” of America’s leadership in the world.

White House aides suggest that while Trump doesn’t criticize certain world leaders publicly, he’s willing to deliver tough messages behind closed doors.

Biden said he hopes Democrats don’t pursue Trump’s impeachment if the party takes over the House, saying, “I don’t think there’s a basis for doing that right now.”

 

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White House Counsel Don McGahn Returns to Civilian Life

Don McGahn has returned to civilian life. 

A White House official confirms that Wednesday was McGahn’s last day as White House counsel. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters.

President Donald Trump announced in August that McGahn would leave after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. 

McGahn is a top election lawyer who served as general counsel in Trump’s election campaign. He played a pivotal role in the president’s remaking of the federal judiciary with young, conservative judges, like Kavanaugh. He was also the main point of contact inside the White House for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Trump said Washington lawyer Pat Cipollone would replace McGahn

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White House Counsel Don McGahn Returns to Civilian Life

Don McGahn has returned to civilian life. 

A White House official confirms that Wednesday was McGahn’s last day as White House counsel. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters.

President Donald Trump announced in August that McGahn would leave after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. 

McGahn is a top election lawyer who served as general counsel in Trump’s election campaign. He played a pivotal role in the president’s remaking of the federal judiciary with young, conservative judges, like Kavanaugh. He was also the main point of contact inside the White House for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Trump said Washington lawyer Pat Cipollone would replace McGahn

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Migrants Moving Again in Guatemala; Trump Targets Democrats

More than 2,000 Honduran migrants traveling en masse through Guatemala resumed their journey toward the United States on Wednesday as U.S. President Donald Trump sought to turn the caravan into a political issue three weeks before midterm elections. 

A day after warning Central American governments they risked losing U.S. aid if they didn’t do something and saying that anyone entering the country illegally would be arrested and deported, Trump turned his sights on Democrats and urged Republican allies to campaign on border security.

“Hard to believe that with thousands of people from South of the Border, walking unimpeded toward our country in the form of large Caravans, that the Democrats won’t approve legislation that will allow laws for the protection of our country. Great Midterm issue for Republicans!” Trump said in a Wednesday morning tweet.

“Republicans must make the horrendous, weak and outdated immigration laws, and the Border, a part of the Midterms!” he continued.

In Guatemala, the migrants rose early and many left without eating breakfast, bound for Zacapa, the next city on their route. Overcast skies and a light drizzle took the edge off the sweltering heat and humidity, making the trek more bearable. 

‘It is God who decides’

Migrant Luis Navarreto, 32, said he had read about Trump’s threats regarding aid to his country but was undeterred.

“We are going to continue,” Navarreto said. “It is God who decides here. We have no other option but to move ahead.” 

The migrants are fleeing widespread poverty and gang violence in one of the world’s most murderous countries, and many blamed Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez for what they called unlivable conditions back home. 

“We are here because of Juan Orlando,” said migrant Nelson Zavala, 36, adding that the last three days had essentially been sleepless ones.

The previous day, the migrants advanced about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the Honduras-Guatemala border to arrive at the city of Chiquimula.

That’s a tiny portion of the almost 1,350 miles (2,170 kilometers) they’d have to travel to reach the closest U.S. border.

Some were able to hitch rides, and hundreds advanced farther and faster than the main group to reach the Guatemalan capital, according to the Casa del Migrante shelter there.

Late Tuesday, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico to respect the rights and ensure the safety of the migrants traveling in the caravan.

The caravan has snowballed since about 160 migrants departed Friday from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, with many people joining spontaneously while carrying just a few belongings. Estimates of their numbers ranged up to 3,000. 

Three weeks before the U.S. elections, the caravan was bound to draw Trump’s ire. But he did not follow through on a similar threat to cut aid to Honduras in April over an earlier caravan, which eventually petered out in Mexico.

‘Political groups’ blamed

On Tuesday, Honduras’ president accused unnamed “political groups” of  organizing the caravan based on lies in order to cause problems in Honduras.

“There are sectors that want to destabilize the country, but we will be decisive and we will not allow it,” Hernandez told reporters.

Earlier, the Foreign Ministry alleged that people had been lured to join the migration with “false promises” of a transit visa through Mexico and the opportunity to seek asylum in the United States.

In a joint statement Wednesday, Mexico’s Foreign Relations and Interior departments said that anyone in the caravan with travel documents and a proper visa would be allowed to enter, and that anyone who wanted to apply for refugee status could do so.

But the statement said all cases must be processed individually, suggesting that authorities have no intention of letting the migrants simply cross the border en masse without going through standard immigration procedures.

The statement warned that anyone who entered Mexico in an “irregular manner” faced detention and deportation.

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Migrants Moving Again in Guatemala; Trump Targets Democrats

More than 2,000 Honduran migrants traveling en masse through Guatemala resumed their journey toward the United States on Wednesday as U.S. President Donald Trump sought to turn the caravan into a political issue three weeks before midterm elections. 

A day after warning Central American governments they risked losing U.S. aid if they didn’t do something and saying that anyone entering the country illegally would be arrested and deported, Trump turned his sights on Democrats and urged Republican allies to campaign on border security.

“Hard to believe that with thousands of people from South of the Border, walking unimpeded toward our country in the form of large Caravans, that the Democrats won’t approve legislation that will allow laws for the protection of our country. Great Midterm issue for Republicans!” Trump said in a Wednesday morning tweet.

“Republicans must make the horrendous, weak and outdated immigration laws, and the Border, a part of the Midterms!” he continued.

In Guatemala, the migrants rose early and many left without eating breakfast, bound for Zacapa, the next city on their route. Overcast skies and a light drizzle took the edge off the sweltering heat and humidity, making the trek more bearable. 

‘It is God who decides’

Migrant Luis Navarreto, 32, said he had read about Trump’s threats regarding aid to his country but was undeterred.

“We are going to continue,” Navarreto said. “It is God who decides here. We have no other option but to move ahead.” 

The migrants are fleeing widespread poverty and gang violence in one of the world’s most murderous countries, and many blamed Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez for what they called unlivable conditions back home. 

“We are here because of Juan Orlando,” said migrant Nelson Zavala, 36, adding that the last three days had essentially been sleepless ones.

The previous day, the migrants advanced about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the Honduras-Guatemala border to arrive at the city of Chiquimula.

That’s a tiny portion of the almost 1,350 miles (2,170 kilometers) they’d have to travel to reach the closest U.S. border.

Some were able to hitch rides, and hundreds advanced farther and faster than the main group to reach the Guatemalan capital, according to the Casa del Migrante shelter there.

Late Tuesday, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico to respect the rights and ensure the safety of the migrants traveling in the caravan.

The caravan has snowballed since about 160 migrants departed Friday from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, with many people joining spontaneously while carrying just a few belongings. Estimates of their numbers ranged up to 3,000. 

Three weeks before the U.S. elections, the caravan was bound to draw Trump’s ire. But he did not follow through on a similar threat to cut aid to Honduras in April over an earlier caravan, which eventually petered out in Mexico.

‘Political groups’ blamed

On Tuesday, Honduras’ president accused unnamed “political groups” of  organizing the caravan based on lies in order to cause problems in Honduras.

“There are sectors that want to destabilize the country, but we will be decisive and we will not allow it,” Hernandez told reporters.

Earlier, the Foreign Ministry alleged that people had been lured to join the migration with “false promises” of a transit visa through Mexico and the opportunity to seek asylum in the United States.

In a joint statement Wednesday, Mexico’s Foreign Relations and Interior departments said that anyone in the caravan with travel documents and a proper visa would be allowed to enter, and that anyone who wanted to apply for refugee status could do so.

But the statement said all cases must be processed individually, suggesting that authorities have no intention of letting the migrants simply cross the border en masse without going through standard immigration procedures.

The statement warned that anyone who entered Mexico in an “irregular manner” faced detention and deportation.

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AP Fact Check: Trump Distorts Migrant Policy, Russia Probe

President Donald Trump mischaracterized the plight of children who were taken from parents at the Mexico border and what’s known about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election investigation in his wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press.

A look at his comments on those subjects Tuesday:

Immigration

Trump: “We have the worst laws in the history of the world on immigration and we’re getting them changed one by one. We’ve made a lot of progress in the last couple of weeks even, but we’re getting them changed one by one.”

The facts: He’s actually failed to achieve changes in immigration laws. All of the immigration-related changes pushed by his administration were done by executive order, not legislation, or through policy shifts like the zero-tolerance policy that criminally prosecuted anyone caught crossing illegally and gave rise to family separations. The administration has also used regulations to tighten the rules on how immigrants can receive public benefits. Immigration legislation has failed despite Republican control of the White House and both houses of Congress.

Trump, on the separation of children from their parents at the border: “Now President Obama had the same law. He did the same thing.”

The facts: Obama did not do the same thing as a matter of policy. It’s true the underlying laws were the same. But the Trump administration mandated anyone caught crossing the border illegally was to be criminally prosecuted. The policy meant adults were taken to court for criminal proceedings, and their children were separated and sent into the care of the Health and Human Services Department, which is tasked with caring for unaccompanied migrant children. The so-called zero-tolerance policy remains in effect, but Trump signed an executive order June 20 that stopped separations.

Jeh Johnson, Obama’s homeland security secretary, told NPR there may have been unusual or emergency circumstances when children were taken from parents but there was no such policy.

​Trump: “And in fact the picture of children living in cages that was taken in 2014 was a picture of President Obama’s administration and the way they handled children. They had the kids living in cages. They thought it was our administration and they used it, and then unbeknownst to them and the fake news they found out, ‘Oh my God, this is a terrible situation.’ This was during the Obama administration.”

The facts: He’s right. Images that circulated online during the height of Trump’s family separations controversy were actually from 2014 under the Obama administration. But circumstances for some children have not changed. In June, an Associated Press reporter was part of a group that visited a U.S. Border Patrol holding facility, where hundreds of children were waiting in a series of cages created by metal fencing. One cage had 20 children inside, scattered around were bottles of water, bags of chips and large foil sheets intended to serve as blankets. The cages in each wing opened out into common areas to use portable restrooms.

The children both in 2014 and 2018 were separated temporarily from their parents in the facilities, placed in areas by age and sex for safety reasons.

Russia investigation

Trump, about Mueller’s Russia investigation: “It’s a tremendous waste of time for the president of the United States. To think that I would be even thinking about using Russia to help me win Idaho, we’re using Russia to help me win the great state of Iowa or anywhere else is the most preposterous, embarrassing thing.”

​The facts: Trump may be right that he did not need a boost in Idaho and Iowa, states he won in 2016 with comfortable margins of 31 points and 9 points, respectively. But the notion of Russia-backed activities on his behalf “anywhere else” in the U.S. is not far-fetched, according to an indictment in February by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The indictment accuses 13 Russians and three Russian entities of seeking to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton by running a hidden social media trolling campaign and seeking to mobilize Trump supporters at rallies while posing as American political activists in “purple states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida.” According to the indictment, the surreptitious campaign was organized by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm financed by companies controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy businessman with ties to President Vladimir Putin.

The indictment says the defendants commonly referred to targeting more closely divided “purple states” after being advised by a Texas-based grass-roots organization in June 2016 to focus efforts there.

The indictment details contacts targeting three unidentified officials in the Trump campaign’s Florida operation. In each instance, the Russians used false U.S. personas to contact the officials. The indictment doesn’t say if any of them responded.

Trump lost by nearly 2.9 million votes in the popular vote to Clinton, but captured the needed Electoral College votes to win the presidency after prevailing in politically divided states including Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Trump: “This was an excuse made by the Democrats for the reason they lost the Electoral College, which gives them a big advantage — a big advantage. Very different than the popular vote. The popular vote would be much easier to win if you were campaigning on it. … But winning the Electoral College is a tremendous advantage for the Democrats.”

The facts: Trump is falsely asserting, as he has before, that Democrats have a “big advantage” in the Electoral College. Its unique system of electing presidents is actually a big reason why Trump won the presidency. Four candidates in history have won a majority of the popular vote only to be denied the presidency by the Electoral College. All were Democrats.

In the 2016 election, Clinton received nearly 2.9 million more votes than Trump after racking up lopsided victories in big states such as New York and California, according to election data compiled by The Associated Press. But she lost the presidency due to Trump’s winning margin in the Electoral College, which came after he narrowly won less populous Midwestern states including Michigan and Wisconsin.

Unlike the popular vote, Electoral College votes are set equal to the number of U.S. representatives in each state plus its two senators. That means more weight is given to a single vote in a small state than the vote of someone in a large state.

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AP Fact Check: Trump Distorts Migrant Policy, Russia Probe

President Donald Trump mischaracterized the plight of children who were taken from parents at the Mexico border and what’s known about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election investigation in his wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press.

A look at his comments on those subjects Tuesday:

Immigration

Trump: “We have the worst laws in the history of the world on immigration and we’re getting them changed one by one. We’ve made a lot of progress in the last couple of weeks even, but we’re getting them changed one by one.”

The facts: He’s actually failed to achieve changes in immigration laws. All of the immigration-related changes pushed by his administration were done by executive order, not legislation, or through policy shifts like the zero-tolerance policy that criminally prosecuted anyone caught crossing illegally and gave rise to family separations. The administration has also used regulations to tighten the rules on how immigrants can receive public benefits. Immigration legislation has failed despite Republican control of the White House and both houses of Congress.

Trump, on the separation of children from their parents at the border: “Now President Obama had the same law. He did the same thing.”

The facts: Obama did not do the same thing as a matter of policy. It’s true the underlying laws were the same. But the Trump administration mandated anyone caught crossing the border illegally was to be criminally prosecuted. The policy meant adults were taken to court for criminal proceedings, and their children were separated and sent into the care of the Health and Human Services Department, which is tasked with caring for unaccompanied migrant children. The so-called zero-tolerance policy remains in effect, but Trump signed an executive order June 20 that stopped separations.

Jeh Johnson, Obama’s homeland security secretary, told NPR there may have been unusual or emergency circumstances when children were taken from parents but there was no such policy.

​Trump: “And in fact the picture of children living in cages that was taken in 2014 was a picture of President Obama’s administration and the way they handled children. They had the kids living in cages. They thought it was our administration and they used it, and then unbeknownst to them and the fake news they found out, ‘Oh my God, this is a terrible situation.’ This was during the Obama administration.”

The facts: He’s right. Images that circulated online during the height of Trump’s family separations controversy were actually from 2014 under the Obama administration. But circumstances for some children have not changed. In June, an Associated Press reporter was part of a group that visited a U.S. Border Patrol holding facility, where hundreds of children were waiting in a series of cages created by metal fencing. One cage had 20 children inside, scattered around were bottles of water, bags of chips and large foil sheets intended to serve as blankets. The cages in each wing opened out into common areas to use portable restrooms.

The children both in 2014 and 2018 were separated temporarily from their parents in the facilities, placed in areas by age and sex for safety reasons.

Russia investigation

Trump, about Mueller’s Russia investigation: “It’s a tremendous waste of time for the president of the United States. To think that I would be even thinking about using Russia to help me win Idaho, we’re using Russia to help me win the great state of Iowa or anywhere else is the most preposterous, embarrassing thing.”

​The facts: Trump may be right that he did not need a boost in Idaho and Iowa, states he won in 2016 with comfortable margins of 31 points and 9 points, respectively. But the notion of Russia-backed activities on his behalf “anywhere else” in the U.S. is not far-fetched, according to an indictment in February by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The indictment accuses 13 Russians and three Russian entities of seeking to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton by running a hidden social media trolling campaign and seeking to mobilize Trump supporters at rallies while posing as American political activists in “purple states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida.” According to the indictment, the surreptitious campaign was organized by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm financed by companies controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy businessman with ties to President Vladimir Putin.

The indictment says the defendants commonly referred to targeting more closely divided “purple states” after being advised by a Texas-based grass-roots organization in June 2016 to focus efforts there.

The indictment details contacts targeting three unidentified officials in the Trump campaign’s Florida operation. In each instance, the Russians used false U.S. personas to contact the officials. The indictment doesn’t say if any of them responded.

Trump lost by nearly 2.9 million votes in the popular vote to Clinton, but captured the needed Electoral College votes to win the presidency after prevailing in politically divided states including Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Trump: “This was an excuse made by the Democrats for the reason they lost the Electoral College, which gives them a big advantage — a big advantage. Very different than the popular vote. The popular vote would be much easier to win if you were campaigning on it. … But winning the Electoral College is a tremendous advantage for the Democrats.”

The facts: Trump is falsely asserting, as he has before, that Democrats have a “big advantage” in the Electoral College. Its unique system of electing presidents is actually a big reason why Trump won the presidency. Four candidates in history have won a majority of the popular vote only to be denied the presidency by the Electoral College. All were Democrats.

In the 2016 election, Clinton received nearly 2.9 million more votes than Trump after racking up lopsided victories in big states such as New York and California, according to election data compiled by The Associated Press. But she lost the presidency due to Trump’s winning margin in the Electoral College, which came after he narrowly won less populous Midwestern states including Michigan and Wisconsin.

Unlike the popular vote, Electoral College votes are set equal to the number of U.S. representatives in each state plus its two senators. That means more weight is given to a single vote in a small state than the vote of someone in a large state.

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Treasury Employee Accused in Leak Linked to Mueller Probe

A Treasury Department employee was accused Wednesday of leaking confidential banking reports of suspects charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and an unidentified high-ranking colleague was cited in court papers as a co-conspirator but was not charged.

Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, a senior official at the department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, also known as FinCEN, is accused of leaking several confidential suspicious-activity reports to a journalist, whose name was not disclosed in court papers. But they list about a dozen stories published by BuzzFeed News over the past year and a half. A spokesman for the news organization declined to comment.

According to the government, the material included reports on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, political consultant Richard Gates and Maria Butina, who is accused of trying to infiltrate U.S. political organizations as a covert Russian agent. 

Edwards is currently on administrative leave, FinCen spokesman Steve Hudak said.

Questionable transactions

Banks must file the suspicious-activity reports with the Treasury Department when they spot transactions that raise questions about possible financial misconduct such as money laundering.

When federal agents confronted Edwards this week, she described herself as a whistle-blower and said she had provided the reports to the reporter for “record-keeping,” the court papers said.

Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, where the criminal complaint was filed, said Edwards “betrayed her position of trust by repeatedly disclosing highly sensitive information.”

Edwards is alleged to have taken photographs of the confidential documents and sent them to a reporter using an encrypted messaging app, according to court documents. Edwards also sent the reporter internal Treasury Department emails, investigative memos and intelligence assessments, prosecutors allege.

When she was arrested, Edwards was in possession of a flash drive containing the confidential reports, prosecutors said.

Edwards was to make an initial court appearance later Wednesday in Virginia. It was not immediately clear whether she had a lawyer.

Co-conspirator

Court papers also list another FinCEN employee as a co-conspirator, noting that this person exchanged more than 300 messages with the reporter via an encrypted messaging application. This person has not been charged and was not named in the court papers, and was identified only as an associate director at FinCEN to whom Edwards reported.

According to court papers, federal investigators obtained a court order to monitor the calls to and from the associate director’s personal cellphone, and that monitoring captured the frequency of contacts with the reporter via the encrypted messaging application. Court papers do not detail the contents of those messages.

“Protecting sensitive information is one of our most critical responsibilities, and it is a role that we take very seriously,” said Sigal Mandelker, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

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Treasury Employee Accused in Leak Linked to Mueller Probe

A Treasury Department employee was accused Wednesday of leaking confidential banking reports of suspects charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and an unidentified high-ranking colleague was cited in court papers as a co-conspirator but was not charged.

Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, a senior official at the department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, also known as FinCEN, is accused of leaking several confidential suspicious-activity reports to a journalist, whose name was not disclosed in court papers. But they list about a dozen stories published by BuzzFeed News over the past year and a half. A spokesman for the news organization declined to comment.

According to the government, the material included reports on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, political consultant Richard Gates and Maria Butina, who is accused of trying to infiltrate U.S. political organizations as a covert Russian agent. 

Edwards is currently on administrative leave, FinCen spokesman Steve Hudak said.

Questionable transactions

Banks must file the suspicious-activity reports with the Treasury Department when they spot transactions that raise questions about possible financial misconduct such as money laundering.

When federal agents confronted Edwards this week, she described herself as a whistle-blower and said she had provided the reports to the reporter for “record-keeping,” the court papers said.

Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, where the criminal complaint was filed, said Edwards “betrayed her position of trust by repeatedly disclosing highly sensitive information.”

Edwards is alleged to have taken photographs of the confidential documents and sent them to a reporter using an encrypted messaging app, according to court documents. Edwards also sent the reporter internal Treasury Department emails, investigative memos and intelligence assessments, prosecutors allege.

When she was arrested, Edwards was in possession of a flash drive containing the confidential reports, prosecutors said.

Edwards was to make an initial court appearance later Wednesday in Virginia. It was not immediately clear whether she had a lawyer.

Co-conspirator

Court papers also list another FinCEN employee as a co-conspirator, noting that this person exchanged more than 300 messages with the reporter via an encrypted messaging application. This person has not been charged and was not named in the court papers, and was identified only as an associate director at FinCEN to whom Edwards reported.

According to court papers, federal investigators obtained a court order to monitor the calls to and from the associate director’s personal cellphone, and that monitoring captured the frequency of contacts with the reporter via the encrypted messaging application. Court papers do not detail the contents of those messages.

“Protecting sensitive information is one of our most critical responsibilities, and it is a role that we take very seriously,” said Sigal Mandelker, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

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