- The Washington Times
Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The New York Times is reassigning reporter Ali Watkins amid revelations that she had an affair with a Senate staffer at the center of a federal investigation into the leak of classified information.

In an internal memo sent to the Times’ staff on Tuesday, Executive Editor Dean Baquet said the paper was “troubled” by Ms. Watkins conduct.

Ms. Watkins will be transferred to the paper’s main office in New York City and given a new beat, and will be “closely supervised” by a senior mentor, Mr. Baquet wrote in the memo.

The Times initiated a review of Ms. Watkins‘ journalism career after it was disclosed that she had a three-year affair with James Wolfe, 57, who handled security for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Ms. Watkins covered the committee for The New York Times and previously had the same beat for BuzzFeed and Politico.

Mr. Wolfe was arrested last month as part of an investigation into the leak of classified information. He is charged with lying to federal investigators about his personal relationships with reporters, including Ms. Watkins.

Ms. Watkins admitted to the relationship but denied Mr. Wolfe had ever been a source, according to an article last month in The New York Times. She said she told her previous employers — BuzzFeed and Politico — about the relationship, which began in 2014 and ended by the time she joined The Times, the paper said.

But federal prosecutors paint a different picture.

In the indictment of Mr. Wolfe, prosecutors said the pair exchanged tens of thousands of text messages over a few years, including one in which Mr. Wolfe admits that he always tried to give her as much information as possible so she “could get that scoop before anyone else.”

The day the Senate intelligence committee received classified documents detailing a suspected meeting between Trump campaign aide Carter Page and a Russian intelligence operative, Mr. Wolfe exchanged 82 text messages and had a 28-minute phone call with Ms. Watkins, according to the indictment.

One month later, Ms. Watkins, then at BuzzFeed, wrote an article saying Mr. Page met with a Russian spy.

Federal prosecutors have also seized Ms. Watkins‘ phone and email records as part of the leak investigation.

Mr. Baquet wrote in the memo that The Times abhors “the actions of the government in this case,” saying it was an attempt to interfere with journalists’ work. He also called out President Trump for referring to journalists as “the enemy of the people.”

But he also criticized Ms. Watkins for her relationship with Mr. Wolfe.

“For a reporter to have an intimate relationship with someone he or she covers is unacceptable,” he wrote.

“I also believe that The Times must be a humane place that can allow for second chances when there are mitigating circumstances,” he said.

Ms. Watkins said in a statement that she regretted putting The New York Times “in a difficult position” and admitted that she “should have handled aspects of my past relationships and disclosures differently.”

She said she is “very grateful for the support I’ve received from editors and colleagues.”

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