In another case of star-crossed lovers turned into agents acting against the US government, a la Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, a high-level Senate staffer has been arrested and indicted for lying to the FBI in regard to its investigation of the leaking of classified information to the press.
The staffer is James Wolfe, who, it is believed, leaked sensitive Senate Intelligence Committee information to his girlfriend, Ali Watkins, a journalist for The New York Times.
It was Watkins who revealed in Buzzfeed last year that Carter Page had “met with and passed documents to a Russian intelligence operative” in 2013. She was a writer for Buzzfeed at the time.381312592-Wolfe-James
A federal grand jury indicted the staffer, James A. Wolfe, 58, on three counts of making false statements in December about contacts with reporters, including providing sensitive information related to the work of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which he served as security director for 29 years. He was arrested Thursday and is expected to appear in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on Friday.
His arrest comes just one day after the full Senate, with little advance notice, quietly authorized the committee to cooperate with the Justice Department regarding what was described only as an “investigation arising out of allegations of the unauthorized disclosure of information.” The 15 members of the committee were briefed on the circumstances of the investigation Monday night.
Also Thursday evening, The New York Times reported that the telephone and electronic communications of one of its reporters were seized by the Justice Department in February as part of the investigation. The reporter, Ali Watkins, declined to comment.
The Times said F.B.I. agents approached Watkins about a previous three-year romantic relationship she had with Wolfe, asserting that Wolfe had helped her with articles while they were dating. But Watkins told the Times that Wolfe was not a source of classified information for her.
Washington must be a 24/7 orgy these days, with adulterers like Strzok and Page engaged in a longtime affair, and promiscuous reporters and government officials being “romantically involved” (to clean up the language a bit).
The Times said in a statement that the action by the Justice Department “will endanger reporters’ ability to promise confidentiality to their sources and, ultimately, undermine the ability of a free press to shine a much needed light on government actions.”
That Wolfe is charged with improperly handling sensitive committee material represents a major breach; the security director is the person entrusted to administer the strict confidentiality procedures for all member offices and committee staffers. The Senate Intelligence Committee, like its House counterpart, has been largely consumed for the past 18 months with an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“Mr. Wolfe’s alleged conduct is a betrayal of the extraordinary public trust that had been placed in him,” said Jessie K. Liu, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. “It is hoped that these charges will be a warning to those who might lie to law enforcement to the detriment of the United States.”
During his tenure, Wolfe escorted every witness who testified before the committee in connection with the Russia probe.
Contacted by NBC News on Wednesday night about the unusual Senate vote, Wolfe denied that it involved any potential wrongdoing by him and that he had been contacted by federal law enforcement officials. Reached again Thursday night, Wolfe declined to comment.
At least one case in which Wolfe is alleged to have improperly shared non-public information involved the Russia probe. According to the indictment, a classified document was provided to the Senate committee in March 2017 that involved an individual identified as “Male 1.” Wolfe “received, maintained and managed” the document on behalf of the committee.
That night, Wolfe is alleged to have exchanged 82 text messages with a reporter and also spoken to her by phone. On or about April 3, an article was published under that reporter’s byline revealing the identity of Male 1. (It is not clear if the information that authorities say was leaked from the classified document was itself classified.)