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Alleged Treasury whistleblower takes a 'see something, say something' defense

Natalie Mayflower Edwards was charged last month with leaking confidential reports to the news outlet BuzzFeed. Her lawyer signaled that she took on the role of a whistleblower. 

This image provided by the Alexandria Sheriff’s Department

This image provided by the Alexandria Sheriff’s Department shows a mug shot of Natalie Mayflower Edwards. Photo Credit: AP

The Virginia woman accused of leaking Treasury Department bank reports to an investigative reporter appeared in Manhattan federal court for the first time Friday wearing a stars-and-stripes pin as her lawyer signaled a whistleblower-type defense that she wanted to protect the nation.

“We’re in the city where you ‘see something, say something’ and that’s her defense,” said Marc Agnifilo, the lawyer for Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, 40, of Quinton.  “…Is she trying to hurt the government, or help the country?”

Edwards was charged last month with leaking confidential reports on the Russian Embassy, ex-Trump-campaign manager Paul Manafort, accused Russian agent Maria Butina and others from the sensitive financial intelligence Treasury unit where she worked, to the news outlet BuzzFeed.

The leaked Suspicious Activity Reports, or SARs, filed by banks fueled articles about transfers under scrutiny by special counsel Robert Mueller and Russian Embassy transactions at the time of President Donald Trump's inauguration, but not government wrongdoing, according to the charges.

Edwards, suspended by the Treasury Department, is charged with conspiracy and unauthorized disclosure of confidential materials. The SARs she allegedly leaked were not classified. The reporter she leaked to for a year has not been charged.

At her brief hearing in court Friday, Edwards – accompanied by her parents – was released on the same $100,000 bail set in Virginia in October. Her lawyer disclosed she is married to a Richmond, Virginia, police officer, and she sported a pin shaped like the United States with stars and stripes on her lapel.

Edwards said nothing during the hearing or afterward, but Agnifilo said the charges revealed only a small “cherry-picked” part of what led her to start leaking documents.

“She saw things in her official capacity that she felt an obligation to bring forward,” he said. “She stood to make no money, no power, no prestige. She’s a lifelong public servant serving this country, and what’s in this case is no different.”

Agnifilo declined to provide details but said that in addition to the press, Edwards had been in touch with people in Congress and other government agencies over the course of “several years,” and said, “She believes certain pieces of information were not being handled the right way.”

He said the charges accuse her, essentially, of using her access to SARs in a manner inconsistent with her official duties, but contended that her duties might go beyond strict compliance with regulations.

“If there’s something being kept from the press or other officials,” he said, “ is it her legal duty to disclose it?”

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