Ex-Senate Intel staffer James Wolfe was at center of FBI FISA leak inquiry

As reported by FoxNews

In a declaration included in a Friday sentencing filing, the Justice Department revealed that a high-level Senate intelligence staffer who pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his media contacts also was at the center of the FBI’s probe into the “known disclosure” of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to surveil a top aide to President Trump.

However, the staffer, 58-year-old James Wolfe, was never charged specifically with leaking any classified information, even though prosecutors alleged he had used his position to “cultivate relationships with multiple young, female reporters, who were attempting to gain information.”

He instead struck a plea deal with prosecutors at the Justice Department to admit to a false-statements charge concerning his unauthorized contacts with reporters — after his lawyers sent letters to each senator on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) notifying them that they might need to testify as part of his criminal trial, if one occurred. President Trump, at the time, said Wolfe’s arrest “could be a terrific thing” and called him a “very important leaker.”

“The FBI did not uncover evidence that [Wolfe] himself disclosed classified national security information,” the DOJ wrote in a court filing last week, which also openly discussed what it called the difficult “separation of powers issue” at play as the Executive Branch agency investigates the Senate.

“The decision concerning how to proceed went to the highest levels of the FBI,” the filing stated.

However, in an affidavit attached to Friday’s filing, the FBI special agent overseeing the Wolfe investigation noted that there had been a “known disclosure of classified information — the FISA application,” apparently referring to the government’s highly secret application to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

Page, who has never been charged with wrongdoing despite months of surveillance, is now suing several key players, including the Democratic National Committee (DNC), for alleged defamation stemming from their attempts to link him to Russian collusion in the wake of the leaked FISA application.

Since-released, but redacted, portions of that FISA application revealed that the FBI told the FISA court it did not believe British ex-spy Christopher Steele was the direct source for a Yahoo News article implicating Page — although court records showed Steele briefed the news agency. The application also revealed the FBI relied extensively on the unverified, salacious dossier funded by Trump’s political opponents.

The SSCI, which functions as a liason between the intelligence community and the Senate, is chaired by North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr and vice-chaired by Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner. In the affidavit filed Friday, the lead FBI agent noted that the agency personally alerted Burr and Warner — and only Burr and Warner — that it was probing whether “a person holding a Top Secret security clearance may have disclosed national security information to the news media.”

The FBI instructed the two senators not to tell Wolfe about the probe in order to avoid the “potential destruction of evidence” as they continued to investigate, according to the affidavit.

As part of their investigation, FBI agents obtained a search warrant and used imaging software to capture the contents of Wolfe’s phone while they had him distracted and attending a meeting with FBI agents to discuss SSCI leaks, according to a separate DOJ court filing last week.

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