James A. Wolfe, the longtime director of security for the committee - one of multiple congressional panels investigating potential ties between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign - was indicted on three false statement counts after prosecutors say he misled agents about his relationships with reporters.
He worked closely with both Democrats and Republicans in a bipartisan fashion for more than 30 years on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which oversees the F.B.I., the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency, and their secretive operations.
The case against Wolfe also marked the first known instance of the Justice Department seizing a journalist's phone and email records under the Trump administration.
The charges should serve as a warning to those who consider lying to law enforcement, said Jessie K. Liu, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a press release that Wolfe lied to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents about his contacts with three reporters, including through his use of encrypted messaging applications.
In his position, Wolfe had access to secret and top-secret information.
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The information given to reporters described in the indictment appears to relate to the committee's interest in Carter Page, an adviser to the Trump presidential campaign who traveled to Russian Federation in 2016, including the news that he had been served with a subpoena by the committee.
All reporters are unnamed in the indictment, but the Times identified Watkins.
Wolfe, 58, of Ellicott City, Maryland, was expected to appear in U.S. District Court Friday afternoon in Maryland's Northern Division in Baltimore.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on Friday said that charges brought against a former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer were "extraordinarily serious and troubling".
"The Attorney General has stated that investigations and prosecutions of unauthorized disclosure of controlled information are a priority of the Department of Justice", said Assistant Attorney General John Demers in a statement. The identities of three other reporters referred to anonymously in the indictment, and with whom Wolfe is alleged to have had contact, were not clear. The Justice Department's investigative rules generally require giving a reporter the chance to contest the demand for records and to narrow the scope of the government's inquiry. After the story ran, Wolfe allegedly texted the journalist "Good job!" and "I'm glad you got the scoop".
Buzzfeed Editor in Chief Ben Smith said on Twitter that the online publication is "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".
Wolfe "used his personal cell phone, his [Senate Intelligence Committee]-issued electronic mail account, and anonymizing messaging applications, including Signal and WhatsApp, to exchange electronic communications with reporters", prosecutors allege in the indictment.