Published: Fri, June 08, 2018
Global | By Shelia Dennis

Former Senate intel committee staffer indicted

Former Senate intel committee staffer indicted

The reporter, Ali Watkins of The New York Times, had several years of her phone and email records seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Wolfe was a longtime intelligence panel staffer and served as director of security for the committee, a position that gave him access to classified information. He was responsible for receiving, maintaining and managing classified material that passed between the White House and Senate lawmakers. According to the indictment, the former U.S. Senate staffer also lied about giving two journalists classified information.

Wolfe, 58, of Ellicott City, Maryland, was expected to appear in U.S. District Court Friday afternoon in Maryland's Northern Division in Baltimore. The Times says the reporter, Ali Watkins, was informed in February that the Justice Department had obtained years of records for two email accounts and a phone number of hers, though they did not obtain the content of the messages themselves. Watkins revealed to the Times that she had a personal relationship with Wolfe, but she said that she did not use him as a source.

One of those scoops was said to be Watkins' story on April 3, 2017, for Buzzfeed News that revealed the FBI was investigating former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page because a Russian spy attempted to recruit him in 2013. "She published an article for BuzzFeed News on April 3, 2017, about the attempted recruitment of Mr. Page in which he confirmed the contacts". Watkins appears to be referred to as Reporter #2 in the indictment. She did not answer their questions.

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"During the same interview with the F.B.I., Mr. Wolfe denied knowing Ms. Watkins".

"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", Watkins's personal lawyer, Mark MacDougall, said in a statement. "This will in no way interfere with our ongoing investigation, and the Committee remains committed to carrying out our important work on behalf of the American people".

It is alleged that Wolfe used several means to contact reporters, including Signal and WhatsApp.

In a separate instance, Wolfe used the encrypted messaging app Signal to inform a female journalist he had served a person with a subpoena in the Russian Federation investigation, the government says. "I'm getting information on it now, happened last night, it could be a terrific thing".

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"I always enjoyed the way that you would pursue a story like nobody else was doing in my hallways", Wolfe allegedly wrote.

Leaders of various other outlets spoke out about the government's seizure of Watkins' records.

"Whether it was really necessary here will depend on the nature of the investigation and the scope of any charges", he said, according to the AP. This aggressive move builds on President Donald Trump's hostile stance toward the press, though President Barack Obama's administration was also extensively criticized for its dogged pursuit of leak investigations and its heavy-handed tactics to get information from journalists. Sessions said that authorities were prepared to stop "the culture of leaking".

It's clear from the context of the indictment that Watkins was the author of one story the FBI was investigating to determine who served as her source or sources.

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The FBI was conducting a criminal investigation "into multiple unauthorized disclosures of classified information to one or more members of the news media", according to the indictment.

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