A former veteran Senate Intelligence Committee security director pleaded guilty Monday to lying to FBI agents about his contact with a reporter during a federal leak investigation, and also admitted lying about speaking with three other reporters.
James A. Wolfe, 57, pleaded guilty to one count of lying about using encrypted messaging in October 2017 to tell “Reporter #3” about a subpoena issued by the committee.
“Reporter #3” was not named in court or court filings. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss two other counts related to interactions Wolfe was accused of having with three other reporters. One of those reporters, the context of the indictment indicates, was Ali Watkins of the New York Times, who had been in a relationship with Wolfe and whose email and phone records were later subpoenaed by the Justice Department.
Wolfe, of Ellicott City, Md., became emotional at several points during the hearing before U.S. District Judge Ketanji B. Jackson, taking long pauses at several points as he acknowledged his guilt and his possible loss of rights as a felon. He wiped away tears as he sat down after one conversation with the judge, and his voice cracked as she asked him if he was ready to make his decision.
“I’m guilty, your honor,” Wolfe then told the judge.
Wolfe was indicted June 7 on three counts of making false statements about his contacts with reporters while he served as the committee’s director of security, whose duties included overseeing the handling of secret and top-secret information turned over by the intelligence community for oversight purposes.
The government in June alleged that Wolfe, who had worked for the Senate committee for 30 years, from 1987 until May, lied to FBI agents in December 2017 about repeated contacts with four reporters, including through the use of encrypted messaging applications. He was also accused of lying about giving two reporters nonpublic information about matters before the committee.
“Jim has accepted responsibility for his actions,” his lawyers said in a statement after the hearing, “and has chosen to resolve this matter now so that he and his family can move forward with their lives.” The attorneys, Preston Burton, Benjamin B. Klubes and Lauren Randell, said they would have more to say about “Jim’s distinguished record of nearly three decades of dedicated service to the Senate and the intelligence community” at sentencing.
On Oct. 17, 2017, Reporter #3 asked Wolfe, using the encrypted messaging app Signal, to provide contact information for a person subpoenaed by the intelligence committee, and Wolfe obliged, according to the indictment. Later that day, that reporter published a story disclosing the subpoena. After the story published, Wolfe congratulated the reporter, using Signal, stating “Good job!” and “I’m glad you got the scoop,” the indictment said.