A former director of security for the Senate Intelligence Committee, James Wolfe, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to federal charges that he lied to FBI agents about whether he had been in contact with or leaked classified information to four different reporters, with some of that happening during the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
Until his retirement in May, Wolfe, 58, had been responsible for managing "all classified material" provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee - Wolfe is not charged with leaking any of those items, but instead with making false statements to investigators, when asked if he had been in contact with specific reporters.
Wolfe's legal team immediately signaled that they would seek a gag order on the federal government about the case, "including President Trump," said lawyer Benjamin Klubes.
In the indictment unsealed last week, Wolfe was told in late October of 2017 that FBI agents were investigating leaks of classified information; in December, Wolfe was asked about certain news reports, and whether he had contact with several unnamed reporters.
"During the December 15, 2017 interview, WOLFE continued to deny any contact with other reporters and denied providing to any of them classified information or information that he learned as Director of Security for the SSCI that was not otherwise publicly available," the indictment stated.
Also of note in this case is reporter Ali Watkins, who was hired by the New York Times in December; the 26 year old Watkins had been involved in a romantic relationship with Wolfe, and during that time, she was covering high profile stories involving intelligence matters for several other news organizations.
"She has said that Mr. Wolfe did not provide her with information during the course of their relationship," the newspaper reported, as the New York Times announced it was reviewing her "work history."
Watkins previously worked at McClatchy, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and Politico.
As part of the Wolfe probe, investigators reportedly seized several years of phone and email records belonging to Watkins, which prompted objections from news organizations.
Then, a new story emerged about Watkins, as the Washington Post reported that an agent in the Department of Homeland Security had met with Watkins in June 2017, revealing that he knew extensive details of her relationship with Wolfe, including trips they had taken together.
The Post reported that has prompted an internal DHS investigation.