Senate Aide Was In Contact With Reporter Who Broke Carter Page FISA Story

Chuck Ross | Reporter
  • Former Senate aide James Wolfe lied to the FBI about contacts with several journalists, including one who wrote a report in April 2017 that the government was conducting surveillance against Carter Page.
  • The Justice Department revealed Wolfe’s contacts with the unidentified reporter in court papers filed on Monday.
  • Wolfe pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his media contacts. He has not pleaded guilty to leaking classified information. 

Newly released court documents show that a former Senate aide who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the media was in touch with one of the reporters who broke a story in April 2017 about highly classified surveillance warrants against Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

The documents, filed in federal court Monday, show that James Wolfe, the former director of security for the Senate Intelligence Committee, lied to the FBI when he denied having contact with at least three reporters, including one who authored an April 11, 2017, report revealing that the government had a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant against Page.

The Justice Department documents do not identify the article or the news outlet, but it appears to be a reference to a Washington Post report written by Ellen Nakashima, Devlin Barrett and Adam Entous.

The FBI interviewed Wolfe in December 2017 as part of an investigation into the leak of highly classified government information that the FBI opened in April 2017. He was indicted in June on three counts of lying to the FBI about his contacts with reporters. He initially pleaded not guilty in the case.

James Wolfe, a longtime staffer of the Senate Intelligence Committee, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., Oct. 25, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File

James Wolfe, a longtime staffer of the Senate Intelligence Committee, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File

In his position, Wolfe handled classified documents on behalf of the committee, which received a batch of documents related to the Trump-Russia probe, including about Page, on March 17, 2017.

Wolfe is not accused of, and he did not plead guilty to, leaking classified information.  There is no allegation that he leaked information to The Post about Page or for the newspaper’s story about the FISA warrant. (RELATED: Senate Aide Targeted Trump Adviser In Aggressive Media Leak Campaign)

But the FBI’s investigation does suggest that investigators had some suspicion that Wolfe leaked information for the story. And the DOJ documents reveal for the first time that Wolfe was in contact with reporters from The Post.

Wolfe, a 28-year Senate veteran, did leak information about Page to other reporters. He was also in a romantic relationship Ali Watkins, a reporter who published a major story at BuzzFeed News about Page a week before the FISA story.

While Wolfe and Watkins both denied that she was provided with information related to committee business, the Justice Department said that Wolfe sent a text message to Watkins shortly before his December 2017 interview with the FBI in which he said 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.”

New York Times reporter Ali Watkins (YouTube screen capture)

The Justice Department said Wolfe lied during his Dec. 15, 2017, interview with the FBI when he denied that he had contact with any of the three reporters who wrote the April 11, 2017 article.

The statement says that one of the reporters, REPORTER #1, had “repeated contact” with Wolfe through his official Senate account between December 2015 and June 2017.

According to the government document, Wolfe emailed the reporter on Dec. 9, 2015, stating, “Nice meeting you.”

The reporter responded shortly after, writing “Very nice meeting you! Enjoyed the chat.”

Wolfe wrote back: “Did you make it home safely?”

The Justice Department also says that the subject of the April 11 article, believed to be Page, contacted the reporter on May 8, 2017 complaining about a story that the reporter published.

On May 11, 2017, the reporter emailed Wolfe asking for his cell phone number. Later that day, the reporter emailed Wolfe asking “When can we get coffee?”

Wolfe was also in contact with a journalist who reported on Oct. 17, 2017 that the Senate Intelligence panel had subpoenaed Page. NBC News broke that story.

An attorney for Wolfe did not respond to a request for comment. The Washington Post also did not respond.

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