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Ex-Senate Intel Security Chief Pleads Guilty to Lying to FBI About Media Leaks

© AP Photo / Chairman of the Joint ChiefsUS Senate Foreign Relations Committee
US Senate Foreign Relations Committee - Sputnik International
James Wolfe, 57, pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of making a false statement to the FBI after for telling special agents that he hadn’t provided a reporter with unclassified material.

The information Wolfe disclosed, while not classified, was not publicly available, either. He apparently made the false statement during an investigation into whether he had leaked classified information, according to a US Department of Justice press release.

Wolfe was indicted in June on three charges of lying to the FBI but through his guilty plea was able to strike a deal that saw him convicted of just one of the charges.

Jim Jatras, a former senior foreign policy advisor to Senate Republicans, told Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear around the time of Wolfe's indictment that the charges struck him as "fishy."

"I look at when someone gets charged with making false statements to the FBI, and it's likely the opposite of the case," Jatras said. "When they don't have the goods on somebody or actual criminal behavior and they want to nail them on something, they get them for ‘lying to the FBI,' which in most cases I don't think they have."

But on Monday, when US District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson asked Wolfe if he did in fact lie, he said, "I did, your honor."

He admitted to pleading guilty for no reason besides being actually guilty.

Among the reporters Wolfe talked to was Ali Watkins, then a reporter for BuzzFeed News and currently employed by The New York Times, and with whom he was having a romantic relationship. According to the indictment against Wolfe, "On or about April 3, 2017, a news organization published an online article, under REPORTER #2's byline, that revealed the identity of MALE-1."

On April 3, 2017, Watkins posted an article on BuzzFeed entitled "A Former Trump Adviser Met With A Russian Spy." It cites a "court filing by the US government" containing a transcript of a conversation in which an accused Russian intelligence operative by the name of Victor Podobnyy spoke to other accused spies about recruiting someone identified in the documents as "Male-1."

"BuzzFeed News has confirmed that ‘Male-1' is [Carter] Page," the outlet reported. Buzzfeed's article published on Monday about Wolfe's guilty plea fails to mention that it was the original source of the unclassified leak.

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Watkins, who had been in a relationship with Wolfe for three years at some point, had her data seized by authorities in the first known instance of the Department of Justice taking a reporter's records under the Trump administration.

The affair between the alleged Russian spy and Page is said to have taken place in 2013 — just one year after former President Barack Obama won his reelection bid.

Page, a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign between March and September 2016, has been at the center of investigations into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, the first of which kicked off in July 2016.

Page was the subject of surveillance under the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). He has not been indicted in the ongoing probe, now headed by special counsel Robert Mueller, however.

Wolfe faces a maximum sentence of five years behind bars for his conviction, but lawyers and prosecutors say he'll likely get between zero and six months in prison, according to BuzzFeed. He will be sentenced in late December and remains free on bond until then.

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