Friday morning, ABC News ignored a story that broke overnight that revealed how some reporters were using unethical means to obtain and leak classified information about the Trump Administration. The Justice Department announced late Thursday that the former head of security for the Senate Intelligence Committee, James Wolfe, was arrested and indicted for lying to the FBI about his leaking of information to the media. His primary contact? New York Times’ reporter Ali Watkins, whom he just happened to have a three-year romantic relationship with.
While NBC’s Today show and CBS’s This Morning reported on the story in a straightforward manner, ABC’s Good Morning America didn’t even have a brief mention of the story on their two hour program.
Both CBS and NBC led their reports on the story by noting the White House was “cracking down” on leakers. CBS’s Jeff Pegues reported that Wolfe had been in contact with at least three journalists while he was head of the Senate Intelligence Committee:
Prosecutors say that Wolfe falsely claimed to FBI agents in an interview in 2017 that that he did not have contact with reporters. But according to an indictment unsealed late Thursday, investigators say that he had repeated contact with at least three reporters between 2015 and 2017.
Both networks noted that the Justice Department had confirmed that Wolfe was giving information to Times’ reporter Ali Watkins, after seizing her phone and e-mail records. The Justice Department’s investigation established a connection between certain stories being leaked and the dates where Wolfe and Watkins had exchanged a large number of messages and/or phone calls. Wolfe later admitted to having a three year romantic relationship with the Times’ reporter.
NBC’s Kristen Welker pointed out the paper defended their reporter and attacked the Trump Administration. However she also pointed out that this criticism also faced the Obama Administration:
But I can tell you, Savannah, The New York Times firing back this morning, writing, “This decision by the Justice Department will endanger reporters’ ability to promise confidentiality to their sources.” Journalism advocacy groups have been accusing the government of overreach, going all the way back to the Obama administration.
CBS’ Jeff Pegues also noted that Trump was not the first president to do this:
Now this is the first known incident that the Department of Justice has seized a reporter’s data. It is a tactic that the Obama administration used in the past.
Despite ABC’s shock and horror reaction to any harsh word said against the intelligence community by President Trump, they had no interest in a member of the Senate outright lying to the FBI about leaking potentially classified information to the media.
Read the transcripts below:
NBC Today06/08/187:00 AM TEASESAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Breaking overnight, leak crackdown. A long-time Senate staffer indicted on charges of lying to the FBI and accused of sharing classified information with the media. Investigators seizing the phone of a New York Times reporter.(...)7:05 AM SEGMENTGUTHRIE: And, Kristen, there’s another big story making waves this morning, having to do with a leak and a top official on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Tell us about that.KRISTEN WELKER: That’s right. That staffer on the Senate Intel Committee, James Wolfe, has been arrested on charges of lying to the FBI about intentionally leaking classified information. Now, investigators have also seized the records of a New York Time reporter, Allie Watkins. And The New York Times is reporting the two were having a romantic relationship. No comment from either side on that allegation. But I can tell you, Savannah, The New York Times firing back this morning, writing, “This decision by the Justice Department will endanger reporters’ ability to promise confidentiality to their sources.” Journalism advocacy groups have been accusing the government of overreach, going all the way back to the Obama administration. So this will undoubtedly get a lot of attention today, Savannah.GUTHRIE: Alright, Kristen, with that breaking news, thank you....CBS This Morning6/8/187:07:46 to 7:09:49NORAH O’DONNELL: The Senate Intelligence Committee’s former head of security is due in court today, accused of lying to the FBI about talking with reporters. Fifty-eight-year-old James Wolfe was arrested yesterday. The FBI says he was in regular contact with a number of journalists. The New York Times saiys investigators secretly seized phone and e-mail records from one of its reporters. Jeff Pegues is outside the Justice Department. Jeff, good morning.JEFF PEGUES: Good morning. James Wolfe’s arrest comes as the White House is cracking down on leakers. Prosecutors say that Wolf falsely claimed to FBI agents in an interview in 2017 that that he did not have contact with reporters. But according to an indictment unsealed late Thursday, investigators say that he had repeated contact with at least three reporters between 2015 and 2017.Wolfe’s job as the Director of Security for the Senate Intelligence Committee gave him access to classified information. The New York Times reported Thursday that investigators secretly seized years' worth of phone and e-mail records from reporter Ali Watkins. The Times reports investigators did not obtain the content of those messages. The Times says Watkins had a three-year personal relationship with Wolf before she began working for the paper in 2017. Now, Watkins denies Wolfe gave her classified information and her attorney says the seizure of her data was, in their words, “disconcerting.” Now this is the first known incident that the Department of Justice has seized a reporter’s data. It is a tactic that the Obama administration used in the past. We reached out to James Wolfe for a comment. We still haven't heard back. If he is convicted in this case, he could get up to 15 years behind bars. John?JOHN DICKERSON: Jeff Pegues for us in Washington. Thanks, Jeff. There’s going to be a lot more coming out of that story.O’DONNELL: Yeah. Absolutely. What did they find on all those seized records from the New York Times reporter who had this relationship with him?ALEX WITT: And who are the other reporters?DICKERSON: Exactly right. And the Justice Department does not take kindly to lying to the FBI.WITT: No. It doesn’t.