Friday, June 8, 2018

A Wolfe At The Door

News broke late Thursday evening that a former Democrat staffer on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) is expected to be indicted for making false statements to special agents of the FBI during the course of an investigation into the unlawful disclosure of classified information to reporters.

Wolfe had worked under leadership of both parties since 1987, before abruptly departing the Senate panel at the end of 2017.

Over the past year, as the Committee's Russia inquiry heated up, Wolfe was responsible for escorting high-profile witnesses into the committee's secure spaces (SCIF), including Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

The Justice Department alleges that, as SSCI Director of Security, Wolfe “was entrusted with access to classified SECRET and TOP SECRET information provided by the Executive Branch, including the U.S. Intelligence Community, to the SSCI. In this position, Wolfe was responsible for safeguarding all classified information in the possession of the SSCI.”

Wolfe had a romantic relationship with New York Times reporter Ali Watkins.  Watkins also worked for BuzzFeed and Politico during her three-year-long relationship with Wolfe.

They exchanged tens of thousands of text messages.

According to the indictment, “Despite WOLFE’s statements, WOLFE had, in truth, engaged in extensive contact with multiple reporters, including conveying to at least two reporters information about MALE-1. WOLFE used his personal cell phone, his SSCI-issued electronic mail account and anonymizing messaging applications, including Signal and WhatsApp, to exchange electronic communications with reporters.”

According to the New York Times, Mr. Wolfe’s case led to the first known instance of the Justice Department going after a reporter’s data under President Trump. The seizure suggested that prosecutors under the Trump Administration will continue the aggressive tactics employed under President Barack Obama. [emphasis mine]

The Obama Administration had repeated tangles with journalists such as James Rosen of Fox News, including secretly subpoenaing phone records of Associated Press reporters and editors during a 2012 leak investigation into a story about a bomb plot. 

It appeared that the FBI was investigating how Ms. Watkins learned that Russian spies in 2013 had tried to recruit Carter Page, a former Trump foreign policy adviser. She published an article for BuzzFeed News on April 3, 2017, about the attempted recruitment of Mr. Page in which he confirmed the contacts.

The Washington Times notes, “The Justice Department claims Mr. Wolfe regularly met in secret with two of the reporters the FBI questioned him about as well as other journalists. Those meetings were often held in places unlikely to be discovered by others, including secluded areas of the Hart Senate Office building, restaurants, bars and private residences, prosecutors alleged in the indictment.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and ranking member, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), said in a joint statement: “While the charges do not appear to include anything related to the mishandling of classified information, the committee takes this matter extremely seriously. We were made aware of the investigation late last year, and have fully cooperated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice since then.”

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