Se­nate aide pleads not guilty in leaks case

The Signal - - USA TODAY - Kevin Johnson

WASH­ING­TON — A vet­eran Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee staffer pleaded not guilty Tues­day to charges of ly­ing re­peat­edly to FBI agents in­ves­ti­gat­ing his con­tacts with jour­nal­ists as part of an in­quiry into the unau­tho­rized dis­clo­sure of sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion.

The case against James A. Wolfe, 57, the Se­nate panel’s long­time di­rec­tor of se­cu­rity, was un­sealed Thurs­day. He is charged with three counts of mak­ing false state­ments to agents who as part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion seized emails and phone records be­long­ing to a New York

Times re­porter. One of the four re­porters who pros­e­cu­tors al­leged re­ceived in­for­ma­tion from Wolfe was iden­ti­fied as New York

Times cor­re­spon­dent Ali Watkins, the news­pa­per has said, adding that Wolfe and Watkins had a ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship that be­gan about four years ago.

A fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor no­ti­fied Watkins on Feb. 13 that Jus­tice had ob­tained in­for­ma­tion on her Google email ac­counts and Ver­i­zon phone, the

Times re­ported. The ac­tion de­parted from tra­di­tional prac­tice by fed­eral au­thor­i­ties who gen­er­ally no­tify re­porters in ad­vance be­fore seek­ing their com­mu­ni­ca­tions. The seized records spanned years be­fore and after Watkins joined the Times in 2017 to cover fed­eral law en­force­ment.

It is the first known in­stance in which the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has seized records from a jour­nal­ist dur­ing the course of a leak in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Watkins’ at­tor­ney, Mark MacDougall, had de­scribed the seizure as “dis­con­cert­ing.”

James Wolfe

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