James Wolfe, the director of security for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for over 30 years, was charged with three counts of making false statements to investigators about his contacts with four reporters.
He worked closely with both Democrats and Republicans in a bipartisan fashion for more than 30 years on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which oversees the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the CIA and the National Security Agency, and their secretive operations.
The Associated Press notes, "Though Wolfe is not charged with disclosing classified information, prosecutors say he was in regular contact with multiple journalists who covered the committee, including meeting them at restaurants, in bars, private residences and in a Senate office building".
Per the filing, Wolfe told "Reporter #3" on October 16 that he served Page with a subpoena, and the next day agreed to the reporter's request to provide Page's contact information.
Responding to the revelation, Ben Smith, editor in chief of BuzzFeed News, tweeted, "We're deeply troubled by what looks like a case of law enforcement interfering with a reporter's constitutional right to gather information about her own government".
"We respect the important role that the press has and we give them respect, but it is not unlimited", Sessions said.
The indictment of James Wolfe, 58, former security director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), has sent shockwaves around Washington. Wolfe and Watkins were in "a personal relationship" that began in 2013 when Watkins was a news service intern in Washington, DC, according to charging documents. The action departed from traditional practice by federal authorities who generally notify reporters in advance before seeking their communications.
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"During the same interview with the F.B.I., Mr. Wolfe denied knowing Ms. Watkins". "After WOLFE stated that he did not know about REPORTER #2's sources", the indictment reads, "FBI agents confronted WOLFE with pictures showing WOLFE together with REPORTER #2". But she only learned that her records had been seized when she received a letter from the Justice Department in February. "We were made aware of the investigation late previous year, and have fully cooperated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice since then". He is set to appear before a federal court in Washington today.
Each false statement count is punishable by up to five years in prison, though if convicted, Wolfe would nearly certainly face only a fraction of that time. He left the organization in December and formally retired in May, reported the New York Times. He further indicated that he had not had a personal relationship with any of the journalists.
Wolfe is accused of using the same messaging app to serve as an unnamed source for a third reporter, and of communicating with a fourth reporter using his Senate email account from 2015 to 2017.
"They involve leaks of classified information, potentially involving the Russian Federation probe to reporters, three, possibly more, including a New York Times reporter", the Connecticut Democrat told CNN.
In response to an inquiry from CNN, her lawyer Mark J. MacDougall said, "It's always disconcerting when a journalist's telephone records are obtained by the Justice Department - through a grand jury subpoena or other legal process". While the info obtained may have been necessary to prove Wolfe lied to investigators, it does seem like a serious breach first amendment boundaries for nothing but vanilla "lied to the feds" charges.
It was the first known instance during the Trump administration of the Justice Department going after a reporter's data.