Former Senate Intel aide indicted in DOJ leak case
A former senior Senate Intelligence Committee aide was charged Thursday for allegedly lying to FBI agents late last year about his contacts with three reporters, according to court documents.
James Wolfe, 58, who served as the director of security for the Senate panel for 29 years, was indicted as part of a federal probe into the leaking of classified information, the Justice Department announced.
Wolfe stopped doing work for the committee in December 2017 and stepped down from his post in May, according to The New York Times.
Wolfe allegedly lied to the FBI in December about his communications with three reporters through encrypted messaging applications.
He also is accused of lying about giving two reporters nonpublic information about committee business.
Wolfe is slated to make his first court appearance in the case on Friday at the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.
The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate panel indicated late Thursday that they were made aware of the federal investigation in late 2017.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a joint statement that they “have fully cooperated” with the FBI and DOJ. They also said the Senate panel “has made certain official records available to the Justice Department” through the Senate Legal Counsel.
“We are troubled to hear of the charges filed against a former member of the Committee staff. While the charges do not appear to include anything related to the mishandling of classified information, the Committee takes this matter extremely seriously,” they said.
“This news is disappointing, as the former staffer in question served on the Committee for more than three decades, and in the Armed Forces with distinction. However, we trust the justice system to act appropriately and ensure due process as this case unfolds,” they continued, adding the case would “in no way interfere” with the panel’s ongoing probe into Russia’s election meddling.
The DOJ noted Thursday in announcing the charges against Wolfe that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has pushed to increase the number of leak investigations pursued by the department.
“The Attorney General has stated that investigations and prosecutions of unauthorized disclosure of controlled information are a priority of the Department of Justice. The allegations in this indictment are doubly troubling as the false statements concern the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive and confidential information,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in a statement.
“Those entrusted with sensitive information must discharge their duties with honesty and integrity, and that includes telling the truth to law enforcement.”
The development comes after the Times reported Thursday that the Justice Department seized phone and email records from national security reporter Ali Watkins, who was previously in a three-year relationship with Wolfe.
FBI agents reportedly contacted Watkins about her relationship with Wolfe as part of a probe into unauthorized leaks.
Watkins, who now works at the Times, reportedly did not answer the agents’ questions, however. Watkins told the newspaper that Wolfe did not act as a source of information during their relationship.
She also said she informed editors at BuzzFeed and Politico of the relationship. Authorities reportedly obtained phone records from when she was working at those publications.
–Updated at 11:59 p.m.