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BuzzFeed ‘Strongly Condemns’ 6-Month Prison Sentence for Former Treasury Official Who Leaked Mueller-Related Documents

Natalie Edwards provided BuzzFeed News with confidential banking documents

BuzzFeed on Thursday condemned the prison sentence handed down to a former Treasury Department official who leaked confidential banking documents to the outlet.

Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards was sentenced to six months behind bars — and three years of supervised release — Thursday after pleading guilty in January 2020 to one count of conspiracy to make unauthorized disclosures of banks’ suspicious activity reports (SARs). Edwards leaked the SARs — which showed suspicious transactions made by the GOP, Russian diplomats and Trump associates, among others — to a BuzzFeed News reporter. The reports served as the basis for a number of Buzzfeed investigative pieces on topics like former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and Russia’s embassy in the United States. The pieces were highlighted in the criminal complaint against her, though the outfit itself wasn’t named.

“Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards is a brave whistleblower,” said a statement from BuzzFeed following the sentencing, which stipulated that Edwards must turn herself in for the lockup by Aug. 2. “She fought to warn the public about grave risks to America’s national security, first through the official whistleblower process, and then through the press. She did so, despite tremendous personal risk, because she believed she owed it to the country she loves.”

The statement went on, “Because of Ms. Edwards’s bravery, BuzzFeed News, along with the 108 media organizations in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, were able to publish the FinCEN Files, which revealed financial corruption on a global scale. That investigation has helped to inspire major reform and legal action in the United States, the E.U., and countries around the world.”

The statement pointed out that BuzzFeed News did not acknowledge Edwards or her role until after her sentencing and after she gave the outlet permission to do so, then concluded, “BuzzFeed News supports the actions of whistleblowers and strongly condemns today’s sentence of Ms. Edwards.”

Jason Leopold, the BuzzFeed News investigative reporter with whom Edwards worked, also praised her in a tweet, re-sharing the company statement along with a photo he took with her outside court.

Read BuzzFeed News’ FinCEN Files project here.