"While the charges do not appear to include anything related to the mishandling of classified information, the committee takes this matter extremely seriously", they stated, adding that the leak probe "will in no way interfere" with the committee's continuing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign.
James Wolfe, 58, was indicted on three counts of making false statements about his contacts with three reporters. Wolfe, 57, worked for the committee for almost three decades under both Republican and Democratic leadership. "I'm a very big believer in freedom the press but i'm also a believer that you can not leak classified information", he told reporters in Washington on Friday. Wolfe was shown a copy of a story the reporters wrote that contained classified information, according to the indictment. Mark Warner (D-VA) said they were "troubled" by the charges against Wolfe.
The Department of Justice was trying to track down who has been leaking information about these investigations.
Before she started at the Times, FBI agents sought information from her about a romantic relationship she had with Wolfe, but Watkins said she didn't answer those questions, which were part of an investigation into unauthorized leaks. "The allegations in this indictment are doubly troubling as the false statements concern the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive and confidential information", Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the Justice Department's top national security official, said in a statement.
Coulson also ordered Wolfe not to access or discuss classified information with undisclosed people, not to possess a personal identification other than his own, and to make weekly check-ins with authorities - all were stipulations of release requested by the federal prosecutor, Phil Selden. He worked closely with Manafort in Ukraine, and US officials say he has ties to Russia's intelligence services. Wolfe appeared at the Maryland courthouse because he was arrested in that jurisdiction, but the case will proceed in Washington. "But confronted with pictures of the two together, he admitted being in a "personal relationship" with her since 2014", according to the Times.
Per the filing, Wolfe told "Reporter #3" on October 16 that he served Page with a subpoena, and the next day agreed to the reporter's request to provide Page's contact information. As director of security, Wolfe received the document.
"The way the indictment is written is clearly aimed at launching a disgusting smear of a reporter, and it has had that effect", Smith told the Washington Post.
In that story, Watkins reported that Trump campaign advisor Carter Page had met with and passed documents to a Russian intelligence operative in New York City in 2013.
Prosecutors obtained the records from telecommunications companies- including Google and Verizon- as part of a leak-related investigation, according to the New York Times. The Daily Beast's Will Sommer encapsulated the complexity of the situation when he tweeted Thursday night the government "shouldn't be seizing reporters' communications".
New York Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said in a statement, "Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy and we believe that communications between journalists and their sources demand protection".
But what happened under Obama set an ominous tone for reporters who were trying to do their jobs of informing the public. "We fear it could be an opening salvo in an ongoing battle over reporters' ability to protect their sources".
Watkins' student email records were among those seized by the FBI during the investigation of Wolfe.
"This guy did this because he doesn't like Donald Trump", DiGenova said. 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.
Prosecutors said the case underscored the importance of protecting secrets and reinforced that it's unacceptable to try to mislead the Federal Bureau of Investigation.