Indicted Senate Staffer Calls Trump Remarks Prejudicial

WASHINGTON (CN) – The former Senate intelligence staffer indicted as part of the government’s leak probe claimed in a court filing Tuesday that the president’s remarks about him impinge his right to a fair trial.

James Wolfe, then-director of security with the Senate Intelligence Committee, waits for the start of a June 7, 2017, hearing with the nation’s national-security chiefs about Russia’s election meddling. Federal prosecutors are accusing Wolfe of having lied to the FBI about contact he had with reporters who covered the committee. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, file)

Attorneys for James Wolfe at the firm Buckley Sandler brought the motion just minutes after a status conference before U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. They say Trump’s comments have been highly prejudicial, and that the president and other Justice Department officials must be barred from making any future such commentary.

Wolfe, who served as the Senate intelligence committee’s director of security for 29 years, faces three counts of lying to federal investigators about his contacts with journalists during an investigation of classified leaks. Though tasked with managing classified material provided to the committee, Wolfe has not been charged with leaking classified information.

As noted by Wolfe’s attorneys on Tuesday, however, President Trump celebrated Wolfe’s indictment on June 7 by announcing that the Justice Department “caught a leaker.”

Wolfe had not even been arraigned at that point, the memorandum states, “yet President Trump informed the world that Mr. Wolfe was in fact guilty – a ‘leaker’ who had been caught – pronouncing his arrest a ‘terrific thing’ and implying falsely that the conduct involved leaking classified information.” (Emphasis in original.)

The memo also criticizes Assistant Attorney General John Demers for having said that the case involves the “unauthorized disclosure of sensitive and confidential information.”

All that the indictment describes is “the disclosure of information ‘not otherwise publicly available,’” Wolfe’s attorneys note.

Prosecutor Tejpal Chawla said in court that Wolfe’s motion could complicate efforts to schedule pretrial briefing.

During a roughly 10-minute hearing in Wolfe’s case Tuesday, defense attorney Preston Burton suggested that subpoenas could be issued for journalists and members of the Senate intelligence committee.

Burton and co-counsel Benjamin Klubes emphasized outside the courthouse in a brief statement to the press this suggestion should not be taken as an indication that they would subpoena journalists or Senate staffers.

One of the reporters with whom Wolfe allegedly lied about interacting is Ali Watkins of The New York Times. Watkins disclosed to the Times that she and Wolfe have been in a personal relationship for three years. In advance of Wolfe’s indictment, the government seized years worth of email and phone records from Wolfe.

Prosecutor Chawla told Jackson that the government has no plans to subpoena any journalists or Senate staffers in the case.

Wolfe pleaded not guilty to his indictment last week.  Briefing on the matter is due by June 25, and the next status conference in the case is set for July 9 at 2:30 p.m.

Chawla said the government plans to disclose the most relevant discovery materials to Wolfe by then so that Wolfe can to determine whether he wants to changes his plea deal. Chawla emphasized that there is no deal on the table, and Burton also clarified to Jackson that no plea discussion is underway.

Outside the courthouse, attorney Klubes called Wolfe “a dedicated public servant and a decorated Army veteran.”

“We’re going to vigorously defend his case, including at trial,” Klubes said.

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