A former security director for the Senate Intelligence Committee — who was in charge of maintaining all classified information from the Executive Office to the panel — was indicted for allegedly giving false statements to FBI agents looking into possible leaks to reporters, the Justice Department announced Thursday night.
James A. Wolfe, 58, served as the panel’s security director for 29 years, according to the feds.
Wolfe lied to the FBI in December 2017 about contacts he had with three reporters, the indictment read. He also allegedly lied about giving two reporters non-public information about committee matters.
Earlier Thursday, the New York Times revealed that federal investigators had seized years’ worth of email and phone records relating to one of its reporters, Ali Watkins. She previously had a three-year romantic relationship with Wolfe, the Times reported, adding that the records covered a period of time before she joined the paper.
Wolfe allegedly admitted to FBI agents in 2017 that he lied about his relationship with a reporter identified in court papers as “REPORTER #2.” He admitted the relationship after he was shown photos of the two of them together, according to the indictment.
Wolfe was allegedly in contact with “REPORTER #2” and they exchanged tens of thousands of electronic communications and often daily phone calls. He would also meet at the reporter’s apartment, court papers alleged.
Wolfe had extensive contact with reporters about “MALE-1,” who was reportedly identified as Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser.
Wolfe received classified information about “MALE-1” on the same day he exchanged 82 text messages with “REPORTER #2,” according to the indictment. A few weeks later, “REPORTER #2” published an online article that revealed the identity of “MALE-1.”
On April 3, 2017, Watkins’ byline appeared on a BuzzFeed article that revealed that Page had met with a Russian intelligence operative in 2013.
Wolfe allegedly called “REPORTER #2” nearly a half-hour after the story went live and had a phone conversation for about seven minutes.
In December 2017, Wolfe allegedly messaged “REPORTER #2.”
“I’ve watched your career take off even before you ever had a career in journalism. … I always tried to give you as much Information (sic) that I could and to do the right thing with it so you could get that scoop before anyone else. … I always enjoyed the way that you would pursue a story,like nobody else was doing in my hal1way (sic). I felt like I was part of your excitement and was always very supportive of your career and the tenacity that you exhibited to chase down a good story,” the message read, according to the indictment.
Watkins worked previously for BuzzFeed, Politico and McClatchy.
The Wall Street Journal, citing an unnamed source, reported that Watkins disclosed the relationship when she joined The Times.
Mark MacDougall, Watkins’ attorney, 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 maintained that he did not share any classified information or news leads, according to the indictment. He is not charged with disclosing classified information.
Wolfe used several means to contact reporters, including Signal and WhatsApp, according to court papers. He also met “clandestinely in person,” in secluded areas of the Hart Senate Office Building, the indictment charged.
Wolfe is expected to make his first court appearance 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.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram, Mike Arroyo, Mike Emanuel and the Associated Press contributed to this report.