Charges filed against former Senate Intelligence Committee director of security James Wolfe are “extremely serious and troubling,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Friday.
“They involve leaks of classified information, potentially involving the Russia probe to reporters, three, possibly more, including a New York Times reporter,” the Connecticut Democrat told CNN.
“The records of that Times reporter were seized in the course of the FBI investigation, which is also troubling, because there are procedures that provide seizure of reporter records, emails and phone records only as a last resort, only after certain threshold standards are met and only after notification to the reporter. Whether those procedures were followed here is a big question.”
Such seizures, he continued, can have a “chilling effect” on reporting.
“That’s the reason that as a one-time reporter and as a prosecutor I am sensitive to drawing the line in a way that includes reporting accurately and using leaks when it involves information useful to the public,” said Blumenthal.
Wolfe was charged Thursday with three counts of false statements after prosecutors say he denied having disclosed classified information to journalists.
However, Wolfe was in regular contact with multiple journalists, including meeting them at restaurants, in bars and in a Senate office building, according to the Department of Justice.
“We’re talking about classified information, and sometimes releasing that information can put people’s lives in danger, sources and methods may be jeopardized, and that’s why the FBI began this investigation,” said Blumenthal.
“But very clearly, seizure of reporter’s records have to be an ultimate last resort. Other means of obtaining the information have to be explored first under these procedures.
“And the approval of any sort of seizure of these records, in this case from Google and Verizon, have to be approved at the highest level. And I want to know whether those standards and procedures were followed.”
Blumenthal also discussed the news that the Trump administration has said it will no longer defend in court ome provisions of Obamacare, including preexisting conditions.
“Let me say as a former attorney general, one of my principal areas of activity was to protect people against the misuse of these pre-existing condition provisions in an insurance policy,” said Blumenthal.
“We went to bat for people. We advocated for them when insurance companies said no because they had a headache some years previously and now had a brain tumor and the insurance companies refused to cover it.
“These kinds of abuses were absolutely reprehensible and so is the administration’s refusal to defend this protection against the misuse of those pre-existing condition provisions in the insurance policies. I think it is extremely misguided and morally unconscionable.”
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