Senior Justice Department officials announced late Thursday criminal charges against Senate Intelligence Committee’s long-time director of security James Wolfe.
The indictment charges Wolfe with making false statements to the FBI and details how Wolfe passed classified information, including presumably information related to one-time Trump campaign aide Carter Page, to a series of media outlets, confirming long-standing suspicions of the career intelligence community’s complicity in leaks. The three-count indictment charges Wolfe with separate instances of making false statements to the FBI, not directly charging him for leaking classified information, but appearing to detail how he did allegedly leaked classified information to reporters and then allegedly lied about it to the FBI.
The 11-page indictment does not name the reporters and does not name the person about whom classified information was leaked, but labels them as “Reporter #1,” “Reporter #2,” “Reporter #3,” and “Reporter #4” as well as “MALE-1” respectively. It is presumed that “MALE-1” is Page, the ex-Trump aide, and “Reporter #2” is then-Buzzfeed News now New York Times reporter Ali Watkins.
Watkins broke the Carter Page angle of the “Russia investigation” back in April 2017 with a story called “A Former Trump Adviser Met With A Russian Spy.” In it, Watkins claimed, “The revelation of Page’s connection to Russian intelligence — which occurred more than three years before his association with Trump — is the most clearly documented contact to date between Russian intelligence and someone in Trump’s orbit.”
The Wolfe indictment makes clear that the government was investigating a leak about Carter Page meeting with a Russian intel operative in 2013 when it seized @aliwatkins' email and phone records. Here's the story: https://t.co/Q7l2Z7uHs2 pic.twitter.com/pSwXXG49wF
— Brad Heath (@bradheath) June 8, 2018
Based on accusations in the Wolfe indictment, it appears this scoop, that Page had been in contact with a Russian intelligence operative back in 2013, was based entirely on classified information Wolfe was privy to as a result of his position and which he allegedly leaked to Watkins.
After her explosive Buzzfeed scoop about Page, Watkins secured a job at the prestigious New York Times — where she is currently employed. The Times, earlier on Thursday, before the indictment was unveiled, reported that Watkins and Wolfe were “in a romantic relationship” at the time Wolfe leaked the Carter Page documents. Texts included in the indictment appear indicative not only of Wolfe’s willingness to leak to Watkins, but his personal connection to her as well. One particularly telling text from Wolfe to Watkins reads:
I always tried to give you as much information 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. 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.
When interviewed by FBI agents in December 2017, Wolfe allegedly denied any contact with Watkins and at least two other journalists to whom he is accused of leaking classified information. Confronted with photographs of he and Watkins together, he relented, admitting he had lied, but denying discussing or passing Senate Intelligence Committee information to her. It is these alleged false statements with which Wolfe was charged Thursday.
The Times story earlier Thursday about Watkins and Wolfe detailed that as part of this investigation, “prosecutors also secretly seized years’ worth of a New York Times reporter’s phone and email records.”
The indictment contains no charges related to the classified information itself, but the investigation is reportedly continuing with left-leaning news outlets apparently outraged that Watkins’s phone records have been seized as part of the probe:
This story concerns a reporter's work @BuzzFeedNews. We are deeply troubled by what looks like a case of law enforcement interfering with a reporter’s constitutional right to gather information about her own government. https://t.co/5nus2syio3
— Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) June 8, 2018
Wolfe’s arrest comes after Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified, in November 2017, that the Justice Department had numerous ongoing leaks investigations, including presumably this one. “Members of the committee, we had about nine open investigations of classified leaks in the last three years,” Sessions testified to a House committee. “We have 27 investigations open today. We intend to get to the bottom of these leaks.”
Even earlier, in August 2017, Sessions delivered a stern warning to would-be leakers, “Don’t do it.”
This is a developing story.