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Former Senate Intel staffer accused of lying to FBI makes first court appearance

White House cracks down on leaker

James Wolfe, a nearly 30-year veteran staffer of the Senate Intelligence Committee who is accused of lying to the FBI about his contacts with reporters, made his first appearance in federal court in Baltimore Friday. He faces three counts of false statements to a government agency, charges that could mean up to 15 years in federal prison, if he is found guilty. 

On Friday, Wolfe wore a pair of gray slacks and a white button-up shirt, without a belt or tie. He was hunched over as the hearing proceeded. Wolfe was represented Friday by public defender Christian Lassiter. 

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Former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe appears in federal court in Baltimore. He is accused of making false statements to a government agency. William J. Hennessy Jr.

The Justice Department announced late Thursday that Wolfe has been indicted for allegedly lying to federal authorities about his relationships with three reporters. The DOJ claims Wolfe lied to agents in 2017 about his contacts with the reporters, including through his use of encrypted messaging applications, and of making false statements to the FBI about giving two of those reporters non-public information about committee matters. 

On Thursday, The New York Times reported one its journalists, Ali Watkins, had her phone and email records seized by the federal government as part of an investigation into leaks. According to the Times, the FBI asked Watkins about a previous three-year relationship with Wolfe, but she did not answer their questions. 

President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have made cracking down on leaks and leakers a major priority. Sessions held an entire news conference on the topic last year, and Mr. Trump has tweeted his condemnation of leaks and leakers.

After Friday's hearing, Wolfe is on release, with conditions. He is to report to the FBI Washington field office Monday at 9 a.m. to turn himself in for booking. He will have to appear in D.C. District Court on Tuesday afternoon. The presiding judge in Baltimore Friday also told Wolfe he must turn in his passport, and he is restricted to travel in Maryland and D.C. for court appearances and to meet with his lawyers. 

— CBS News' Andres Triay, Clare Hymes and Kathryn Watson contributed to this report