Two people named Michael Cohen who aren't Donald Trump's lawyer have had their bank information disclosed by Michael Avenatti, a lawyer suing Michael Cohen and President Trump on behalf of Stormy Daniels. The Daily Caller News Foundation reports:
It is unclear how Avenatti obtained the financial records cited in his report. But various news outlets, including The New York Times, also appear to have viewed the documents. The Treasury Department's office of the inspector general opened an investigation into whether someone leaked Cohen's financial documents to Avenatti and the press, it was reported on Wednesday.
It remains a mystery how the financial records of a completely separate Michael Cohen would have ended up in the tranche of documents provided to Avenatti.
The Daily Beast follows up:
Experts told The Daily Beast the level of detail in Avenatti's report suggests he obtained Treasury documents that only the agency's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) had access to or which were requested by law enforcement—such as the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which has been investigating Cohen for months, reportedly eyeing the Trump stalwart for possible bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign-finance violations.
"I think somebody from the SDNY is leaking," said Robert Barnes, a Las Vegas-based trial attorney who's taken Avenatti to task on Twitter. "The degree to which Avenatti had details implicates them badly."
Barnes pointed out that Avenatti was reportedly spotted dining with former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in late March.
Being spotted dining with someone doesn't prove anything about the source of the bank records. But one of the many problems with government agencies conducting politics through leaks is that innocent people have their privacy invaded. Don't expect to see the news outlets reporting about Cohen based on the leaks spending much of their time pressing Avenatti about where he got the information from. As one Times reporter put it recently in the paper's own columns, "I have a duty to the truth — but I always appreciate the heartfelt suggestions of tipsters, and I want to protect them, too."