Senate Intel leaders ask judge not to jail former aide amid leak investigation

Current and former leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee have sent a letter to a federal judge urging that a former aide to the committee avoid jail time for lying to investigators amid a leak investigation.

Sens. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrTop North Carolina newspapers editorial board to GOP: 'Are you OK with a racist president?' Hillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns GOP senators divided over approach to election security MORE (R-N.C.), the committee’s current chairman; Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency at hearing Lawmakers introduce bill to block U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D-Va.), the committee’s current vice chairman; and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinHillicon Valley: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency plan | Trump vows to 'take a look' at Google's ties to China | Google denies working with China's military | Tech execs on defensive at antitrust hearing | Bill would bar business with Huawei Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse Feinstein introduces bill to prohibit campaigns from using social media bots MORE (D-Calif.), a former chairman, submitted the letter, which was published Tuesday by Politico. The letter encourages U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be lenient on the committee’s former security director, James Wolfe.

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“Like many others, we were surprised and disappointed when we learned of the allegations against Jim as they were totally out of character for someone who we considered a friend and had provided thoughtful support to the Committee's membership and staff for so long,” they wrote.

“While Jim pled guilty to one count of making a false statement to special agents of the FBI, there are no indications that he disclosed classification information, he was not charged with disclosing classified information, and his plea includes no reference to classified information.”

“Jim has already lost much through these events, to include his career and reputation, and we do not believe there is any public utility in depriving him of his freedom,” Burr, Warner and Feinstein added.

The senators in the past have all staked out strong claims against leaking classified information from the committee. 

Wolfe admitted in October to lying to the FBI as it was investigating the leaking of information regarding court-ordered surveillance conducted regarding Carter Page, a former Trump foreign policy adviser who is known to have had multiple contacts with Russians during the campaign. Wolfe was involved with serving Page a subpoena and arranging for his testimony in front of the committee. 

He later admitted he spoke with four reporters about committee business and had an affair with intelligence reporter Ali Watkins, who works for the New York Times.

While federal sentencing guidelines recommend zero to six months in prison, prosecutors are seeking a two-year sentence, according to Politico, and Wolfe could face up to five years behind bars when he appears before Jackson next week.

“The fact that Wolfe, by virtue of his national security training and responsibilities, lied in a national security investigation, the significance of which he was particularly situated to appreciate, is further reason to send a strong message that such conduct will be severely punished,” prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors Wolfe’s government position and access to classified information warrant the increased sentence, as opposed to shorter, days long sentences imposed on former Trump campaign officials who admitted to lying in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE's investigation.

Besides the three senators, former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperA brief timeline of Trump's clashes with intelligence director Dan Coats New study suggests Trump's 2016 poll numbers rose after increased Russian troll farm tweets Trump raises 2020 stakes by elevating North Korea, China on agenda MORE and former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question Democratic candidates should counter Trump's foreign policy Paul Ryan joins University of Notre Dame faculty MORE also sent letters to prosecutors in support of Wolfe, according to Politico.