I didn’t do anything wrong: All eyes on Avenatti when IRS analyst is charged for leaking Cohen records

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Last May a then-unidentified perpetrator leaked the back records of President Donald Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen to porn star Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti.

In response, Treasury Department Inspector General Eric Thorson launched an investigation. On Thursday the investigation reached its veritable climax as federal prosecutors charged an Internal Revenue Service investigative analyst for the leak.

A press release by the Department of Justice says that John Fry, an investigative analyst for the IRS’s Criminal Investigation Division, exploited his “access to various law enforcement databases” to retrieve confidential “Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs)” about Cohen.

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“[I]n May 2018, Fry logged on to [the] FinCEN and Palantir [databases] from his work computer and conducted numerous searches related to the taxpayer who was a New York attorney. Fry then disclosed the SAR information to an attorney based in Newport Beach, Calif,” the release reads.

That attorney was Michael Avenatti.

“On May 8, 2018, the attorney used a public Twitter account to circulate a dossier releasing confidential banking information related to the taxpayer and the taxpayer’s company. The SAR information that was passed to the Los Angeles attorney was published in the Washington Post on May 8, 2018.”

As the story went viral at the time, Fry then linked up with investigative journalist Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker for an exclusive interview. During the interview he claimed that he had leaked the documents because several SARs about Cohen had allegedly been deleted from federal databases.

“When something’s not there that should be, I immediately became concerned,”  he said “That’s why I came forward… We’ve accepted this as normal, and this is not normal. Things that stand out as abnormal, like documents being removed from a system, are of grave concern to me.”

He unironically added, “This is a terrifying time to be an American, to be in this situation, and to watch all of this unfold.”

Those who take issue with government employees going beyond the scope of their authority to harm and/or topple the president of the United States would likely agree with that sentiment. Speaking of which, Fry had no legitimate work-related reason to retrieve Cohen’s SARs.

While it’s true that the release of these SARs led to the discovery that Cohen had during the election three years ago paid Daniels to remain quiet about her extramarital affair with the president — a discovery which in turn led to him pleading guilty in federal court to campaign finance law violations — this fact doesn’t lessen the severity of Fry’s own crimes.

HERE’S WHAT YOU’RE MISSING …

The press release by the DOJ says that Fry has been charged with “violating 31 U.S.C. § 5322(a), which prohibits unauthorized disclosure of information from SARs,” and “faces a maximum sentence of five years and a fine of $250,000 for a violation of 31 U.S.C. § 5322.”

What remains unclear is whether Avenatti (or even Farrow) could potentially face charges for accepting the confidential IRS documents and then distributing them to the public.

The lawyer maintains he did nothing wrong:

Others strongly disagree:

Regarding the last tweet, federal investigators reportedly uncovered Fry’s identity in part by tracing phone calls between him and Avenatti made in early May.

When confronted by federal authorities last November, Fry fessed up to everything.

“Fry confessed to verbally providing SAR information to Avenatti. Fry also admitted that he sent Avenatti a screenshot of the narrative,” the complaint against him reads.

His next court appearance is reportedly scheduled for Mar. 13.

HERE’S WHAT YOU’RE MISSING …

Vivek Saxena

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