- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Journalists, news outlets and members of Congress could be among those testifying on behalf of former Senate staffer James Wolfe, his attorney told a federal judge in Washington, D.C., Tuesday.

Preston Burton, who is representing Mr. Wolfe said it is “highly likely” subpoenas could be issued to journalists or news organizations. He did not say if members of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee — where Mr. Wolfe worked for nearly 30 years — would also be compelled to testify. However, he did acknowledge there “may be some issues” in having lawmakers testify, a nod to the classified information surrounding the case.

Although Mr. Burton may be working on a star-studded witness lineup, those testifying on behalf of the government may be more mundane, according to prosecutor Tejpal Chawla.

“The government is not seeking to subpoena members of Congress or reporters,” Mr. Chawla told District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. “Maybe the defense, but not the government.”

Prosecutors say Mr. Wolfe lied about his personal relationships with reporters to FBI agents investigating the leak of classified information. He has pleaded not guilty and is not accused of leaking classified information.

Mr. Wolfe’s court appearance came on the same day his attorneys filed a motion to bar government officials, including President Trump, from speaking publicly about the case.

Mr. Wolfe’s sixth amendment right to an impartial jury and presumption of innocence have been jeopardized by presidential comments about the merits of the case and highly prejudicial insinuations — straying far from the language and substance of the indictment and echoed by the Justice Department — that Mr. Wolfe leaked classified information,” wrote Benjamin Klubes, who is also representing Mr. Wolfe.

Last week, Mr. Trump called Mr. Wolfe, “a very important leaker” and said his arrest “could be a terrific thing.”

“I believe strongly in the freedom of the press. I’m a big, big believer in freedom of the press,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “But I’m also a believer in classified information. It has to remain classified. And that includes [former FBI Director James] Comey and his band of thieves who leaked classified information all over the place. So I’m a big believer in freedom of the press, but I’m also a believer you cannot leak classified information.”

The legal maneuver is an unusual one because gag orders typically limit those directly involved in the case, not third parties. Judge Jackson was skeptical of the request, telling Mr. Burton that it appears the motion can only apply to lawyers and witnesses.

“To what extent does it apply to others?” she asked.

Mr. Chawla responded that the request could impact Mr. Wolfe’s right to a speedy trial because the motion will require a response from the president’s lawyers. He told Judge Jackson that he represents the federal government but not the president.

But Mr. Wolfe’s attorneys said in court papers Judge Jackson can restrain Mr. Trump because he has the authority of the Justice Department, which is prosecuting the case. They also cited statements made in press release written by the Justice Department announcing Mr. Wolfe’s arrest.

“President Trump and senior Department of Justice officials, while not appearing as lawyers in this court, are unquestionably senior representatives of that party,” Mr. Wolfe’s attorneys wrote in the court document.

Mr. Chawla said a plea offer has not been extended to Mr. Wolfe, but one will likely be made after July 9. That’s the date the “voluminous” amount of evidence against Mr. Wolfe will be turned over to his attorneys so they can assess the case against their client.

Discovery will include a significant amount of electronic evidence and some documents that need to be declassified, Mr. Chawla said.

Previously the director of security for the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr. Wolfe faces three counts of making false statements to the FBI. An indictment unsealed last week appears to allege that Mr. Wolfe leaked information to reporters about Trump campaign aide Carter Page. It also claims Mr. Wolfe had a romantic relationship with a journalist identified only as Reporter #2. That reporter is believed to Ali Watkins of The New York Times.

Federal prosecutors recently seized years worth of phone and email records belonging to Ms. Watkins, who previously worked for BuzzFeed and Politico, as part of the leak investigation. The move has prompted concern from press freedom groups and media outlets regarding the Justice Department’s handling of the investigation.

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