Ex-Senate Staffer Pleads Not Guilty In Leak Case, Sets Up Legal Defense Fund

Chuck Ross | Reporter

The former Senate Intelligence Committee official indicted for lying to the FBI during a leak investigation pleaded not guilty in federal court on Wednesday.

James A. Wolfe, the former director of security for the Senate panel, also set up a legal defense fund in which he is seeking $500,000 to pay for his legal bills.

Wolfe, the former director of security at the Senate committee, was indicted on Thursday on three counts of lying to the FBI about his contacts with reporters.

During a Dec. 15, 2017 interview with FBI agents, Wolfe denied knowing four separate reporters. But phone records and photographic evidence showed that Wolfe knew the journalists, according to a grand jury indictment.

Wolfe appears to have given journalists information about former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The government indictment suggests that Wolfe gave reporter Ali Watkins information about Page for an article that she published on April 3, 2017. He also allegedly provided information to reporters for an Oct. 17, 2017 story about a subpoena issued against Page. (RELATED: NYT Reviewing Ali Watkins’ Work In Light Of Leak Investigation)

Wolfe, 57, was in a multi-year relationship with the 26-year-old Watkins, who now works for The New York Times.

The Times is investigating Watkins work product in the wake of the Wolfe revelations. The newspaper reported that Watkins told her bosses that Wolfe did not give her information for stories, but a message cited in the indictment contradicts that denial. (RELATED: Senate Intel Staffer Targeted Trump Adviser With Aggressive Leak Campaign)

Wolfe wrote that he “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.”

Wolfe’s lawyers are not denying that the 29-year Senate veteran lied to the FBI. Instead, they are disputing that he leaked classified information.

The indictment does not allege that Wolfe mishandled classified information, but the leak investigation likely began as an effort to root out the unauthorized release of classified materials.

“Mr. Wolfe never breached that trust,” reads a statement from Wolfe’s lawyers, Preston Burton and Benjamin B. Klubes at the firm Buckley Sandler.

The lawyers also said that they will likely be filing a motion seeking an order from the federal court “prohibiting the government at all levels, including President Trump, from making improper and prejudicial statements regarding this case.”

Trump has said little about the case against Wolfe.

“I’m a big, big believer in freedom of the press. But I’m also a believer in classified information. It has to remain classified,” he said on Friday.

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