Ex-Senate aide charged with lying about reporter contacts
WASHINGTON (AP) — A former employee of the Senate intelligence committee has been arrested on charges of lying to the FBI about contacts he had with multiple reporters and is expected in federal court Friday in Baltimore.
James A. Wolfe, the longtime director of security for the committee — one of multiple congressional panels investigating potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign — was indicted on three false statement counts after prosecutors say he misled agents about his relationships with reporters.
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. He also maintained a yearslong personal relationship with one reporter, which prosecutors say he lied about until being confronted with a photograph of him and the journalist.
The indictment was announced on soon after The New York Times revealed that the Justice Department had secretly seized the phone records and emails of one of its journalists, Ali Watkins, as part of the same leak investigation involving Wolfe. The newspaper said Watkins was approached by the FBI about a three-year relationship she had had with Wolfe when she worked at other publications. The newspaper also said that Watkins said that Wolfe was not a source of classified information for her during their relationship.
In a statement Thursday night, Watkins’ attorney, Mark 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. Whether it was really necessary here will depend on the nature of the investigation and the scope of any charges.”
Wolfe, 58, of Ellicott City, Maryland, is expected to appear in U.S. District Court Friday afternoon in Maryland’s Northern Division in Baltimore. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he had a lawyer.
Each false statement count is punishable by up to five years in prison, though if convicted, Wolfe would almost certainly face only a fraction of that time.