James Wolfe, a former staffer on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, was sentenced to two months in prison Thursday for lying to the FBI about his contacts with reporters.
The sentence is substantially lower than the two years federal prosecutors were seeking.
Prosecutors argued in a court filing Dec. 11 Wolfe “significantly disrupted a government function and significantly endangered national security” by lying to the FBI about his contacts with reporters.
Wolfe, who was director of security for the Senate panel, was initially questioned as part of an investigation into a leak to The Washington Post regarding FBI surveillance warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. (RELATED: Senate Intel Staffer Pleads Guilty To Lying To FBI About Media Contacts)
WaPo reported on April 11, 2017, that the FBI obtained at least one Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant against Page.
Investigators quickly identified Wolfe as one of the government officials who had access to FISA documents. As director of security, Wolfe handled sensitive documents relative to the Senate committee’s business.
As part of the investigation, the FBI obtained Wolfe’s phone records and physically inspected his phone in October 2017 while he was in a meeting. FBI agents interviewed Wolfe for the first time Dec. 15, 2017. During that interview, Wolfe repeatedly denied having contacts with four separate reporters, including one of the reporters who wrote the WaPo piece.
He was indicted June 8 and pleaded guilty in the case Oct. 15.
Wolfe also denied having contact with former BuzzFeed reporter Ali Watkins, even though the pair had been in a romantic relationship for years.
Wolfe was not charged with leaking classified or sensitive information, merely with lying to the FBI about his reporter contacts.
Information provided by the government suggests the WaPo reporter with whom Wolfe had contact is Ellen Nakashima, a veteran national security reporter.
Wolfe denied leaking information about the Page FISA to WaPo, and prosecutors said they found no evidence he did.
Investigators also raised the prospect that Wolfe was a source for Watkins’ report April 2, 2017, that Page was identified as “Male-1” in court filings against a suspected Russian spy ring. Page was not accused of wrongdoing in the case, but Watkins’ report fed into the narrative that Page was working with the Russian government.
Wolfe’s text messaged did show that he tipped off an NBC reporter Oct. 17, 2017, that Page had been subpoenaed by Senate Intel. In text messages with the reporter, Wolfe referred to Page as an “asshole.”
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