An ex-Senate Intelligence Committee staffer charged with lying to the FBI about his contacts with reporters pleaded not guilty Wednesday — and his lawyers say they will ask for a gag order to keep officials, including President Donald Trump, from talking publicly about the case.
James Wolfe, 57, was indicted June 7 on three counts of making false statements after investigators swept up phone and email records of a New York Times reporter in a government crackdown on leaks.
"Not guilty," Wolfe's lawyer, Preston Burton, said at a 30-minute arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Deborah Robinson of the District of Columbia, The Washington Post reported.
Prosecutors had seized records from Times reporter Ali Watkins, who previously covered the committee and had a now-ended relationship with Wolfe. She has said Wolfe did not act as a source during that time.
At the hearing, Burton cited unspecified statements by unnamed Justice Department officials that he said suggested Wolfe compromised classified information, a crime with which he was not charged — and "glib remarks" by Trump that "prejudged Mr. Wolfe," the Post reported.
Last Friday, Trump said the Justice Department had caught "a very important leaker" and said it could be a "terrific thing."
"I'm a big, big believer in freedom of the press," Trump said. "But I'm also a believer in classified information. Has to remain classified."
Outside the courthouse, another of Wolfe's lawyers, Benjamin Klubes, said they intend to seek a court order prohibiting government officials at all levels — including Trump — "from making improper and prejudicial statements regarding this case," the Post reported.
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