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Republicans Tie Up Isabel Petalunas Nomination To Cover For Secret Trump Ties With Russian Spies

Isabel Petalunas was nominated to the position of Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of the Treasury in June this year. Now, six months later, she has yet to be confirmed. Why?

The answer lies with Republican appointees to the Treasury Department. Since the beginning of the year, the Senate Intelligence Committee and Senate Finance Committee have sought information from the Treasury Department, and the Treasury Department has refused.

Earlier this year, Senator Ron Wyden placed a hold on the nomination of Sigal Mandelker To the Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit. He lifted that hold when the Treasury Department promised to share information with Senate investigations into Donald Trump’s financial connections with the Russian government.

The problems began again when Trump’s Treasury Department failed to follow through on its promise. Senator Wyden then placed a hold on the Petalunas nomination.

As the last hours of the Senate’s 2017 session ticked away, Senator Wyden explained: ”Financial ties need to be a central focus of the Intelligence Committee’s inquiry. The reason I say this, I want to spell out what the connection here is. Our inquiry covered counterintelligence concerns related to Russia and the election, including any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns. Following the money is counterintelligence 101.

If you want to compromise somebody, money is one of the best ways to do it. Well, let me repeat that. That is the connection. That is the connection between the counterintelligence work that is so important and part of the committee’s charge. That counterintelligence work involves following the money because that is key to really getting into the question of whether somebody’s been compromised because one of the best ways to do it is through funds.

Tonight, based on this review of documents, I call again on the committee to follow the money aspects of this inquiry, including by holding public hearings specifically on this topic.

In addition, it is not just the Intelligence Committee that ought to focus on these issues. As I have been saying since March, the Senate Finance Committee, of which I am the ranking Democrat, has a crucial role to play on follow-the-money issues as well. Relevant documents produced by elements of the Treasury Department which are outside the intelligence community, such as the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, ought to be reviewed. There is a need to review these
documents by the Finance Committee staff because we have specific experience and expertise in financial investigation.

In addition, the Finance Committee specifically has oversight responsibilities for tax matters. The Manafort indictment, which included tax evasion, demonstrated clearly that taxes, tax evasion, offshore accounts, and suspicious real estate transactions are all connected. They are all connected, and they ought to be part of any serious investigation into ties between Russia, the President, and his associates. Unfortunately, I and our committee have gotten no cooperation from the Treasury Department. Despite my repeated requests as the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, the Treasury Department has just stonewalled–plain old stonewalling – the lead committee with jurisdiction for the agency.

For that reason, I want to announce tonight that I will hold indefinitely the nomination of the individual to be Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Intelligence and Analysis until the Department cooperates with the Finance Committee and provides the committee with documents it needs to do its job.

Again, I regret that I have to take this step. By the way, many of these documents are unclassified in nature, so the Treasury Department is denying the Finance Committee access to unclassified documents. That is just completely unacceptable.

We all understand that we are in the midst of extraordinary and dangerous times. As our own intelligence community assessed in January, Russia interfered in our election with a clear preference for Donald Trump. No one, other than Donald Trump, has apparently called this assessment into question. For the sake of our national security and the future of our country, it is important to get to the bottom of every aspect of this attack on our democracy.”

Senate requests for non-classified information from departments of the Executive Branch are not unreasonable. It’s the job of Congress to oversee Executive Branch activities.

So, as the Petalunas nomination hangs in the balance, Americans are left to wonder, what is the Treasury Department so determined to hide?

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