By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Lawyers for a former senior Senate Intelligence committee official accused of lying to the FBI said they expect to ask a federal judge to issue an order banning officials, including President Donald Trump, from making public comments that could prejudice a criminal case pending against their client.
At a hearing before Federal Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson on Wednesday, Preston Burton, a lawyer for former intelligence committee security chief James Wolfe, said officials, including Trump had already commented on the case.
In a statement later handed out to reporters, Wolfe’s law firm, Buckley Sandler, said that it “likely will be filing soon a motion seeking an Order from the Court prohibiting the government at all levels, including President Trump, from making improper and prejudicial statements regarding the case.”
Wolfe, who worked for the Intelligence committee for nearly 30 years, pleaded not guilty at the hearing in federal court to charges he lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about discussions with journalists.
In an indictment made public last week, federal prosecutors accused Wolfe of lying to the FBI when he claimed that he had not been in contact with any reporter, and claimed he did not disclose information he had learned while working for the committee to two journalists. Wolfe is not specifically accused of leaking classified information
Following Wolfe’s arrest, Trump described Wolfe as a “very important leaker” and said the arrest “could be a terrific thing,” according to news reports.
Civil liberties and press freedom organizations have expressed deep concern about the Wolfe prosecution and Trump Administration efforts to crack down on leakers. “We heard months ago that the number of leak investigations has been up exponentially,” said Ben Wizner, of the American Civil Liberties Union.
(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Writing by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Frances Kerry and Bill Berkrot)