Watkins broke the Carter Page angle of the "Russia investigation" back in April 2017 with a story called "A Former Trump Adviser Met With A Russian Spy". Mr. Wolfe was not a source of classified information for Ms. Watkins during their relationship, she said.
Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsIllegal immigration rises for third straight month despite Trump crackdown Draft of DOJ watchdog report says Comey defied authority: report Federal judge rules against Trump in Philadelphia sanctuary city case MORE announced a year ago that the DOJ was increasing the number of leak investigations it was conducting, something the department noted in announcing the charges Thursday.
Wolfe was the director of security for the Senate committee for about 29 years, working for both Republicans and Democrats.
The New York Times did not respond to requests for comment Thursday evening. Wolfe is scheduled to make his initial appearance on Friday morning at the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.
The indictment alleges Watkins and Wolfe spoke on the phone for about seven minutes shortly after the piece was published.
Though Wolfe is not charged with disclosing classified information, prosecutors say he was in regular contact with multiple journalists who covered the committee, including meeting them at restaurants, in bars, private residences and in a Senate office building.
A former staff employee of the Senate intelligence committee has been indicted on charges of lying to the FBI about contacts with reporters, after federal agents seized years of telephone and email records belonging to one of the reporters, Ali Watkins of the New York Times. Investigators did not then get the content of the messages themselves.
"While the charges do not appear to include anything related to the mishandling of classified information, the committee takes this matter extremely seriously", the senators said.
Wolfe is accused of using the same messaging app to serve as an unnamed source for a third reporter, and of communicating with a fourth reporter using his Senate email account from 2015 to 2017.
The Times notes that while the Justice Department has specific procedures in place for justifying the seizure of materials from members of the media, it is not clear whether they have been followed in this case. "Whether it was really necessary here will depend on the nature of the investigation and the scope of any charges".
"It is hoped that these charges will be a warning to those who might lie to law enforcement to the detriment of the United States", she added.
The move by the Justice Department comes after President Trump complained for months about the constant leaks coming out of the West Wing. "The allegations in this indictment are doubly troubling as the false statements concern the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive and confidential information".