Ex-Senate intel aide charged after DOJ seizes reporter's records

Ex-Senate intel aide charged after DOJ seizes reporter's records

A veteran Senate Intelligence Committee staffer, charged with lying to FBI agents about his contacts with reporters during a leak investigation, was released on his own recognizance Friday after surrendering his passport during his first appearance in federal court.

As the case has moved forward, BuzzFeed News editor Ben Smith is arguing that the department's tactics are truly concerning - particularly with regard to the treatment of Watkins. Recently, he demanded immunity from Congress as a condition for answering questions about the actions of the Justice Department under his leadership. The newspaper also said that Watkins said that Wolfe was not a source of classified information for her during their relationship. The newspaper confirmed on Thursday that Watkins previously had a 3-year-long romantic relationship with Wolfe.

Federal prosecutors obtained reporters' records in several cases under President Barack Obama, but the Justice Department in Obama's second term adopted rules created to shield reporters in many circumstances. He initially denied knowing her, then when shown photos of them together, he admitted they had been in a three-year relationship. But she only learned that her records had been seized when she received a letter from the Justice Department in February.

During a press conference previous year, Sessions said the Justice Department was "reviewing policies affecting media subpoenas", asserting that reporters' abilities to disclose information had to be weighed against national security concerns. He will have to appear in D.C. District Court on Tuesday afternoon. He is accused of making false statements to a government agency. He stopped performing work for the committee in December and retired last month.

Wolfe's apparent communication via texts, emails, calls, and in-person conversations with these journalists contradicts sworn statements he made to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in December denying having contact with reporters.

The court papers indicate Watkins and Wolfe had a "personal relationship" dating back to 2014.

The indictment alleges Wolfe also had contact with three other reporters, referred to only as Reporter #1, Reporter #3 and Reporter #4.

An article under Watkins' byline appeared online on the BuzzFeed news site on that date revealing Page's contact with a Russian intelligence operative.

The indictment says that around December 2017 but before he was interviewed by the FBI, Wolfe sent a text message to "REPORTER #2", presumed to be Watkins. "I'm glad you got the scoop".

"I've watched your career take off even before you ever had a career in journalism", he said, according to the indictment.

"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", said Ms. Watkins's personal lawyer, Mark J. MacDougall to The Times.

While this is the first time that the Trump administration's Justice Department has aggressively gone after reporters' electronic communications, the Obama administration also pursued reporters' records during President Obama's first term.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a civil rights initiative announcement at the Fair Housing Act 50th Anniversary at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., April 12, 2018.

"I have this warning for would-be leakers: Don't do it", Sessions said.

"Mr. Wolfe's alleged conduct is a betrayal of the extraordinary public trust that had been placed in him", said U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie Liu in a statement.

"This news is disappointing, as the former staffer in question served on the Committee for more than three decades, and in the Armed Forces with distinction", Burr and Warner said in a joint statement on Thursday evening. "The allegations in this indictment are doubly troubling as the false statements concern the unauthorized disclosures of sensitive and confidential information".

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