Published: Mon, June 11, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Ex-Senate aide charged with lying about reporter contacts

Ex-Senate aide charged with lying about reporter contacts

The former head of security for the Senate Intelligence Committee was arrested Thursday on charges that he lied to the FBI about his contacts with reporters in an investigation into leaks.

Wolfe was also indicted for making false statements about giving two reporters information that wasn't public related to the committee, according to the announcement. Wolfe had worked for the committee for roughly 30 years, and his position as security director meant that he had access to classified information provided to the panel by the executive branch.

Watkins, who had a number of important scoops over the past few years, told the New York Times that Wolfe was not a source of information during the course of their relationship.

The Justice Department's seizure of email and phone records from New York Timesreporter Ali Watkins sparked widespread criticism and fear of an attack on the First Amendment when it was revealed on Thursday. Last year, he said the department was pursuing about three times as many leak investigations as were open at the end of the Obama administration.

The indictment says that around December 2017 but before he was interviewed by the FBI, Wolfe sent a text message to "REPORTER #2", presumed to be Watkins.

In addition to this week's indictments, electronic court records show that Wolfe was charged with second-degree assault, a misdemeanor, in June 2004, but prosecutors later dismissed the charge. The FBI says it was investigating leaks of classified information by Wolfe to the press.

The same month, Mr. Wolfe reached out to a third reporter on the same unidentified app to offer to serve as an unnamed source, the documents said.

It was bad enough for McCabe that he was involved in the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was charged with the same violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001 for lying to investigators.

The media coverage is, predictably, very concerned that the Justice Department secretly collected records of Watkins' communications.

The Times reports that Federal Bureau of Investigation agents initially approached Watkins to ask about her relationship with Wolfe, and said they were investigating illegal leaks. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that the Justice Department may change some of those rules, which some prosecutors say have hindered investigations.

The committee found out that the DOJ had subpoenaed Watkins' records after they read about it the New York Times, a committee source told ThinkProgress. "The moral obstacles have been cleared for Trump's attorney general to go even further, to forget that it's a free press that has distinguished us from other countries, and to try to silence dissent by silencing an institution whose job is to give voice to dissent".

The indictment alleges Wolfe also had contact with three other reporters, referred to only as Reporter #1, Reporter #3 and Reporter #4.

"We fear (this action) could be an opening salvo in an ongoing battle over reporters' ability to protect their sources", Ellerbeck said in a statement.

President Donald Trump has railed, on Twitter and on TV, against leaks to the media. He is also accused of maintaining a yearslong personal relationship with one reporter, which prosecutors say he lied about until being confronted with a photograph of him and the journalist.

Just over two weeks later, on April 3, Watkins published a bombshell story for Buzzfeed detailing that Page in 2013 met with and provided documents to Victor Podobnyy, a Russian intelligence operative who sought to recruit him.

While working for McClatchy, Watkins was part of a Pulitzer-finalist team for reporting on the CIA's spying on Senate Intelligence Committee computers. "Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy, and communications between journalists and their sources demand protection", said Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman.

"That's the reason that as a one-time reporter and as a prosecutor I am sensitive to drawing the line in a way that includes reporting accurately and using leaks when it involves information useful to the public", said Blumenthal.

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