The Trump Justice Department has seized a New York Times reporter’s email and phone records as part of an investigation into unauthorized leaks from a Senate Intelligence Committee staffer to multiple reporters.
According to The Times, the DOJ sent a letter in February to national security reporter Ali Watkins informing her that her phone and email records, including for an account that she used in college, had secretly been seized.
The seizure of Watkins’ communications is the first known instance of the Trump administration directly targeting reporters in leak investigations.
The move is not a major surprise, however. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last year that he was forming a task force to investigate leaks of classified information, and President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the media over various reports.
Watkins had a three-year romantic relationship with James A. Wolfe, the former security director for the Intelligence committee.
The Justice Department announced Thursday night that Wolfe was indicted on three counts of making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with three reporters.
Wolfe, who worked in the Senate for 29 years and had access to Top Secret information, allegedly lied to FBI agents in December 2017 about his contacts with the three journalists, including Watkins.
A Justice Department spokesman said in the indictment that Wolfe used encrypted messaging apps to communicate with the journalists. He lied to FBI agents about providing non-public information to two reporters about Senate Intelligence matters.
According to Wolfe’s indictment, he denied knowing the reporters he was questioned about. In his Dec. 15, 2017 interview, he said he did not know Watkins, who previously worked for BuzzFeed and Politico. When FBI agents showed Wolfe a photo of him with Watkins, he was forced to admit knowing her, according to the indictment.
Wolfe also allegedly made a false statement when he said that he did not provide Watkins with classified information or information related to committee business.
According to the indictment, Wolfe provided classified information to Watkins for a March 17, 2017 article at BuzzFeed about former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
The article revealed that Page was interviewed by the FBI as a witness in a 2013 investigation of a Russian spy ring operating in New York. Page’s identity was masked — he was identified as “Male-1” — in the court papers for the case. The government claimed that Russian agents met with Page, possibly as an attempt to cultivate him as a source.
Page was not accused of wrongdoing in that investigation and gave a voluntary interview with the FBI for the case. But Watkins’ report has widely been cited as evidence of Page’s close ties to Russia. Page is accused in the infamous Steele dossier of being the Trump campaign’s conduit to the Kremlin for purposes of collusion. He has vehemently denied the allegations.
Wolfe’s indictment also states that he tipped off a reporter that a committee witness had been subpoenaed. The indictment appears to again be referencing Page. CNN reported on Oct. 17, 2017 that Page had been subpoenaed to appear before the committee. (RELATED: DOJ Expected To Indict Ex-Senate Intel Staffer In Leak Investigation)
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