The Trump administration stonewalled House impeachment investigators for months on all fronts, but the U.S. Treasury Department is happily providing Republican Senators with highly sensitive information related to Hunter Biden and his associates–in connection with an ongoing investigation into Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine.
According to a Yahoo News report by attorney Luppe B. Luppen (a.k.a @nycsouthpaw), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) requested “all Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) and related documents” regarding Biden, his associates, and Burisma Holdings in a Nov. 15 letter to Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Director Ken Blanco. SARs are extremely confidential reports filed by financial institutions with FinCEN to combat money laundering.
A “leading Democrat” who sits on one of the Senate committees investigating Biden reportedly told Yahoo News that the Treasury turned over secretive “’evidence’ of questionable origin” to the panels investigating Hunter Biden’s Ukraine dealings–the very dealings that President Donald Trump asked Ukraine to investigate during a certain July 25, 2019 phone call.
So Treasury/FinCEN is producing suspicious activity reports aka SARS for Hunter Biden for Republicans, but wouldn’t move expeditiously for the SARS requests by Democrats??? https://t.co/RWKXgaMVDA
— @JulieZebrak (@JulieZebrak) February 6, 2020
The inclusion of SARs in the GOP’s inescapably partisan investigation of Biden, if that’s exactly what happened, would be notable because SARs red-flag activity that financial institutions believe may be worthy of further inquiry. The mere existence of a SAR, Luppen notes, is not indicative of criminal activity but could be easily exploited for political purposes:
The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 mandates that banks generate SARs to report to FinCEN any transactions that they know or have reason to suspect violate federal criminal laws or are connected to money laundering. SARs are among the most confidential, closely held documents in federal law enforcement. They are forbidden to be disclosed or have their existence disclosed by banks or government authorities, exempt from Freedom of Information Act, and privileged in most cases from discovery by civil litigants. Because SARs may be, and indeed are required to be, filed simply on the basis of a reasonable suspicion of illegal activity, the existence of a SAR doesn’t indicate that illegal activity has actually occurred.
Law&Crime has discussed the secrecy of SARs before in the context of Michael Cohen.
A few weeks ago, DOJ secured a guilty plea from Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards–a former FinCEN employee–for sharing SARs related to Paul Manafort and others with a reporter during the Mueller investigation. It was the first case to be solely based on illicitly revealing SARs.
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) February 6, 2020
A spokesperson for Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, didn’t confirm that SARs were included among the highly sensitive evidence of “questionable origin.” He compared the Trump Administration’s immediate cooperation with the GOP investigation to unprecedented White House-directed obstruction of subpoenas issued by House Democrats in the impeachment investigation.
“Applying a blatant double standard, Trump administration agencies like the Treasury Department are rapidly complying with Senate Republican requests—no subpoenas necessary—and producing ‘evidence’ of questionable origin,” Wyden spokesperson Ashley Schapitl said in a statement to Yahoo. “The administration told House Democrats to go pound sand when their oversight authority was mandatory while voluntarily cooperating with the Senate Republicans’ sideshow at lightning speed.”
Mere “moments” after the vote to acquit Trump on Wednesday, Grassley and Johnson announced they requested Biden’s travel records from the Secret Service.
It is important to know, the senators said, what Joe Biden’s son’s movements were years ago because their Committees are “reviewing potential conflicts of interest posed by the business activities of Hunter Biden and his associates during the Obama administration, particularly with respect to his business activities in Ukraine and China.” Per the letter:
Accordingly, to help the committees better understand Hunter Biden’s travel arrangements to conduct business related to his dealings in Ukraine and China, among other countries, while he received a protective detail, please provide the following information no later than February 19, 2020:
1. Please describe the protective detail that Hunter Biden received while his father was Vice President.
2. Please provide a list of all dates and locations of travel, international and domestic, for Hunter Biden while he received a protective detail. In your response, please note whether his travel was on Air Force One or Two, or other government aircraft, as applicable and whether additional family members were present for each trip.
[image via Moses Robinson/Getty Images]