Trump administration continues its crackdown on journalistic sources, charges fifth person in less than two years

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions

The Department of Justice has arrested and charged senior Treasury Department employee Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards for allegedly sharing information with the press. The Trump administration has now charged at least five alleged sources of journalists with crimes in less than two years in office.

Edwards faces one count of unauthorized disclosures of suspicious activity reports and one count of conspiracy to make unauthorized disclosures of suspicious activity reports under Section 5322 of Title 3 and federal regulation Section 1020.320(e)(2) of Title 31 of the US Code. Both charges carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

While the reporter and news organization with whom Edwards is accused of leaking to are not named, details in the complaint suggest the charges stem from a series of articles published by Buzzfeed on suspicious financial transactions made by people in the 2016 Trump campaign orbit. These stories were highly newsworthy at the time of their publication.

The complaint also says Ms. Edwards had filed a previous whistleblower complaint within the agency and had also spoken with Congress about the complaint. The Justice Department alleges that these whistleblower complaints were unrelated to the actions Edwards is charged with, but that fact has not been independently verified.

Freedom of the Press Foundation Executive Director Trevor Timm issued the following statement:

“In less than two years in office, the Trump administration has now charged at least five sources of journalists with felonies for allegedly giving information to the press—a record breaking pace. These prosecutions are a clear threat not just to whistleblowers who inform the public, but to the press freedom rights of journalists everywhere. Ms. Edwards should be afforded every right she is entitled to, and if the law were just, she would be entitled to a public interest defense in any trial.”  

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