James Wolfe, the former security head for the Senate Intelligence Committee, pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of lying to the FBI about his contacts with journalists.
Wolfe had been charged this summer with three such counts, but pleaded guilty to one count in exchange for avoiding a trial, according to an agreement he reached with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
Sentencing his scheduled for Dec. 20, and he could face as much as five years in prison.
Wolfe, 57, once dated Ali Watkins, a New York Times reporter who rose to fame covering national security issues for Congress.
Wolfe was arrested in June after an FBI probe into Ms. Watkins leaking confidential information about Trump campaign figure Carter Page’s meeting with a Russian spy when she worked for BuzzFeed.
At a hearing in June, Wolfe initially pleaded not guilty.
Wolfe had served as director for security for the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he oversaw the transmission of sensitive intelligence information, including documents related to the Russian collusion investigation.
He was never charged with leaking or mishandling classified information, but federal authorities alleged he lied about his relationships with reporters.
As part of his guilty plea, Wolfe admitted to lying to the FBI about providing reporters with information that was unclassified but not otherwise publicly available.
“We emphasize again today that Jim was never charged with having compromised classified information nor is such a charge party of today’s pleas,” Wolfe’s attorneys, Preston Burton and Benjamin Klubes said in a statement.
“Jim has accepted responsibility for his actions and has chosen to resolve this matter now so that he and his family can move forward with their lives,” the statement continued.
After Wolfe’s arrest, President Trump weighed in calling the former Senate staffer, “a very important leaker.”
“I’m a very big believer in freedom of the press, but I’m also a believer that you cannot leak classified information,” Mr. Trump told reporters.
Wolfe’s attorneys sought to a gag order to prevent government officials, including Mr. Trump, from making what they characterized as prejudicial statements about the case.
As part of the Wolfe investigation, the government seized Ms. Watkins phone and email records. The move set off a firestorm about the government’s authority to compel journalists to name their sources.
The New York Times said it was aware of the relationship between Ms. Watkins and Wolfe, which had ended by the time she started at the paper. But the Times said they did not view the relationship as an issue because she was not covering the Senate Intelligence Committee.