Prosecutors want 2-year prison term for ex-Senate Intel staffer James Wolfe in leak case

Federal prosecutors asked a judge to sentence James Wolfe, the former director of security for the Senate Intelligence Committee, to two years in prison for lying to the FBI about leaking classified information to reporters.

"Wolfe was entrusted by two branches of government," prosecutors said in a sentencing memo filed in federal court in Washington on Tuesday. "He abused that trust by using his position to cultivate relationships with reporters ... and offering to serve as a confidential source. Wolfe then lied, and lied persistently, about his actions and his relationships to the FBI agents who were investigating an unauthorized disclosure of classified information."

Prosecutors said Wolfe was in regular contact with four reporters who covered the committee, in violation of Senate rules. He also maintained a yearslong personal relationship with one reporter, previously identified in news reports as Ali Watkins of The New York Times. According to the memo, Wolfe repeatedly lied about his relationship with Watkins (identified in the document as Reporter #2) until he was "confronted with photographs of himself together with [her], some of them during foreign travel." When Wolfe was asked why he didn't disclose his relationship with Watkins when he was first asked about it, the document said he responded: "Why would I?"

Wolfe reportedly added that he believed he would have lost his job had he made the admission.

James Wolfe and New York Times reporter Ali Watkins.

James Wolfe and New York Times reporter Ali Watkins.

According to the memo, Wolfe told another reporter (identified as Reporter #3) on Oct. 16, 2017, that he had served someone with a subpoena to appear before the committee to be interviewed about potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. After the story was published, prosecutors said, Wolfe told her, "Good job!" and "I'm glad you got the scoop," in messages on the encrypted app Signal.

The subject of the subpoena was not identified, but the dates match up to multiple media reports that former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page was subpoenaed by the committee.

Eight days later, Wolfe messaged the same reporter to say Page would testify in a closed hearing before the committee. When the reporter emailed Page for confirmation, prosecutors said Page emailed the committee to complain about the leak. A committee staffer responded to Page with an email telling him that Wolfe "could 'assist you in entering the building discreetly.'"

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Wolfe pleaded guilty in October to a single charge of knowingly making a false statement in the three-count indictment against him. Prosecutors argued that though there was no evidence Wolfe had disclosed classified information, he had caused "significant disruption to a governmental function and significantly endangered the national security."

In their own sentencing memorandum filed Tuesday, Wolfe's attorneys argued their client shouldn't serve any time behind bars. They said he deeply regretted his actions and violating his marital vows.

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The defense memo included a letter from three high-ranking senators: Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va.; and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., another member of the panel.

"Jim has already lost much through these events, to include his career and reputation, and we do not believe there is any public utility in depriving him of his freedom," the senators wrote.

Wolfe is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 20, his 58th birthday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.