A former veteran Senate Intelligence Committee security director pleaded guilty Monday to lying to FBI agents about his contact with a reporter during a federal leak investigation.
James Wolfe, 57, pleaded guilty to one count of lying to investigators about using encrypted messaging in October 2017 to tell a reporter about a subpoena issued by the committee.
The reporter was not named in court or court filings. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss two other counts related to interactions Wolfe was accused of having with three other reporters.
Wolfe was not charged with disclosing classified information, and his lawyers emphasized that in his plea hearing.
Wolfe, of Ellicott City, became emotional at several points during his plea hearing before U.S. District Judge Ketanji Jackson, taking long pauses at several points as he acknowledged his guilt and his possible loss of rights as a convicted felon. He wiped away tears as he sat down after one conversation with the judge, and his voice cracked as she asked him if he were ready to make his decision.
"I'm guilty your honor," Wolfe then told the judge.
Wolfe was indicted June 7 on three counts of making false statements about his contacts with reporters while he served as the committee's director of security, whose duties included overseeing the handling of secret and top-secret information turned over by the intelligence community for oversight purposes.
The government in June alleged that Wolfe, who served in the Senate job for nearly 30 years, from 1987 until May, lied to FBI agents in December 2017 about repeated contacts with four reporters, including through the use of encrypted messaging applications. He was also accused of lying about giving two reporters nonpublic information about matters before the committee.
"Jim has accepted responsibility for his actions," his lawyers said in a statement released after the hearing, "and has chosen to resolve this matter now so that he and his family can move forward with their lives." The attorneys, Preston Burton, Benjamin B. Klubes and Lauren Randell, said they would have more to say about "Jim's distinguished record of nearly three decades of dedicated service to the Senate and the intelligence community" at his sentencing hearing, which was set for Dec. 20.
The judge said Wolfe faces a possible sentence of zero to six months in jail for his conviction. The defense and prosecutors said they had not reached an agreement on a recommended sentence.
Wolfe pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his interactions only with Reporter #3.
On Oct. 17, Reporter #3 asked Wolfe, using the encrypted messaging app Signal, to provide a contact information for the person subpoenaed, and Wolfe obliged, according to the indictment. Later that day, that reporter published a story disclosing the subpoena to testify before the committee. After the story published, Wolfe congratulated the reporter, using Signal, stating "Good job!" and "I'm glad you got the scoop," the indictment said.