Times says Justice seized reporter's email, phone records

Leaker found? Former Senate staffer charged with lying to FBI about reporter contacts

Though Wolfe is not charged with actually disclosing classified information, prosecutors say he was in regular contact with multiple journalists who covered the committee, including meeting them at restaurants, in bars, private residences and in a Senate office building.

"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. He worked closely with both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.

Journalists previously raised alarms about the Obama administration's aggressive moves against reporters in leak investigations. At one point, he was presented with a news article containing classified information and was asked, in a written questionnaire, if he had had contact with any of the piece's three authors. In August, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that in 2017, the number of such investigations had tripled as compared to the already high number opened by the Obama administration.

Ben Smith, BuzzFeed's editor in chief, said, "We're deeply troubled by what looks like a case of law enforcement interfering with a reporter's constitutional right to gather information about her own government".

One of the reporters was identified as New York Times correspondent Ali Watkins, the newspaper said Thursday night, adding that the Senate staffer and Watkins had a personal relationship.

On the day the story appeared, Watkins and Wolfe exchanged a flood of messages and spoke repeatedly on the phone.

Burr and Warner said they were made aware of the investigation late past year and have fully cooperated with the FBI and Justice Department. Burr and Warner added that the Wolfe case will "in no way" interfere with the committee's ongoing probe into Russia's interference in the 2016 US election.

Jatras told Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear on Friday that Wolfe's indictment "strikes [him] as rather fishy".

In that Federal Bureau of Investigation interview, Wolfe told agents that he had not had an official, professional or personal relationship with journalists. At the same time, the admission of a personal relationship between the reporter and the source raised questions about journalistic ethics.

On April 3, Watkins, then a reporter for BuzzFeed News, authored a story that revealed that former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page had been in contact with at least one Russian spy working undercover in NY in 2013.

Court documents say the national security reporter was made aware February 13 that Justice Department officials obtained "years of records for two email accounts and a phone number of hers", in relation to its ongoing probe of James A. Wolfe. A key part of a functioning media is the ability to protect sources. Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said, "This decision by the Justice Department will endanger reporters' ability to promise confidentiality to their sources and, ultimately, undermine the ability of a free press to shine a much needed light on government actions".

But what happened under Obama set an ominous tone for reporters who were trying to do their jobs of informing the public. He is already embroiled as the subject of a referral by the Justice Department inspector general for possible criminal prosecution.

The Senate by unanimous consent agreed to aid the Justice Department in its leak investigation earlier this week.

President Trump is notoriously obsessed with stopping leaks (unless he's doing the leaking) and now, in what may be a first for his administration, his Justice Department has seized a reporter's data as part of a leak investigation.

"It's very interesting that they caught a leaker.it's a very important leaker", the President said while speaking to reporters at the White House.

Wolfe will appear before the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on Friday, according to media reports.

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