President Donald Trump alleged on Friday that federal prosecutors have “caught a leaker” in response to news that a longtime US Senate staffer has been indicted on charges of making false statements to FBI agents as part of an investigation related to the unauthorized disclosure of non-public information.
“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. “So, it’s very interesting. I’m getting information on it now, happened last night, it could be a terrific thing.”
The Justice Department announced Thursday evening that James Wolfe, the former security director for the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been accused of lying to FBI agents in December 2017 about his contacts with three reporters.
At this time, Wolfe has not been convicted of wrongdoing in relation to the charges of making false statements and he was not charged with leaking classified information in the federal indictment released by the Justice Department.
Wolfe was released from custody Friday after agreeing to relinquish his passport and appear in district court in Washington, DC, on the charges in coming days, along with other conditions put forward by prosecutors and ordered by a federal judge at an initial appearance in Maryland district court Friday.
Wolfe, 57, sat mostly silent throughout the hearing in a white dress shirt, replying only “yes, your honor,” when prompted by Magistrate Judge J. Mark Coulson. Wolfe was represented by a public defender.
Wolfe was arrested Thursday in Maryland on a three-count indictment out of DC. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
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.
Wolfe will be processed Monday morning at the FBI’s Washington field office, and appear at a hearing on the charges in US District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday, Coulson ordered. His travel will also be restricted to Maryland and DC for meetings with counsel and court appearances, Coulson said.
Earlier Friday, Trump said that he is “a big, big believer in freedom of the press,” but added that he is also “a believer in classified information – has to remain classified.”
The New York Times reported Thursday evening that one of its reporters, Ali Watkins, had been contacted by federal investigators about the inquiry into Wolfe.
According to The Times, the Justice Department notified Watkins in February that her email and phone records – but not the content of her communications – had been seized.
The court papers indicate Watkins and Wolfe had a “personal relationship” dating back to 2014. He “helped her with articles,” the Times said, but “Wolfe was not a source of classified information for Ms. Watkins during their relationship, she said.”
Prosecutors allege Wolfe also had contact with three other journalists, referred to only as Reporter #1, Reporter #3, and Reporter #4 in the indictment.
According to a Justice Department official, their records were not targeted as part of the investigation.
CNN’s Jessica Schneider contributed to this report.