Ex-Se­nate aide charged with ly­ing about re­porter con­tacts

Manteca Bulletin - - Dollars & Sense -

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, fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors said Thurs­day.

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.

Wolfe, of El­li­cott City, Mary­land, is due in court Fri­day. It wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear if 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.

The crim­i­nal case arises from a De­cem­ber 2017 FBI in­ter­view with Wolfe in which pros­e­cu­tors say he was shown a news ar­ti­cle that con­tained clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion and was au­thored by three jour­nal­ists. He checked “no” in a writ­ten ques­tion­naire when asked if he had any con­tact with the re­porters, even though records ob­tained by the gov­ern­ment show he had been in reg­u­lar con­tact with them — in­clud­ing through en­crypted mes­sag­ing plat­forms.

The in­dict­ment was an­nounced soon af­ter The New York Times re­vealed that the Jus­tice De­part­ment had se­cretly seized the phone records of one of its jour­nal­ists, Ali Watkins, as part of the same leak in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

In a state­ment Thurs­day, Watkins’ at­tor­ney, Marc 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.”

The pros­e­cu­tion comes amid a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion crack­down on leaks of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions have de­cried such dis­clo­sures, with Ses­sions say­ing in Au­gust that the num­ber of leak of crim­i­nal leak probes had more than tripled in the early months of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

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