Former US Senate staffer's lawyers likely to seek Trump gag order

WASHINGTON, June 13 (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 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."

Former Director of Security for the Senate Intelligence Committee James Wolfe

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Former Director of Security for the Senate Intelligence Committee James Wolfe
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Former Director of Security for the Senate Intelligence Committee James Wolfe
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 13: Former Director of Security for the Senate Intelligence Committee James Wolfe leaves U.S. District Court on June 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. Wolfe, who is charged with lying to the FBI about his contacts with reporters, pleaded not guilty. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 13: Former Director of Security for the Senate Intelligence Committee James Wolfe leaves U.S. District Court on June 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. Wolfe, who is charged with lying to the FBI about his contacts with reporters, pleaded not guilty. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 13: Former Director of Security for the Senate Intelligence Committee James Wolfe (L) leaves U.S. District Court on June 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. Wolfe, who is charged with lying to the FBI about his contacts with reporters, pleaded not guilty. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 11: James Wolfe, former director of security for the Senate Intelligence Committee, walks out from the Washington FBI Field Office after being processed on June 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. Wolfe was arrested last week on federal charges for leaking committee information to reporters. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 11: James Wolfe, a former Senate Intelligence Committee aide, leaves the FBI's Washington Field Office after being booked on June 11, 2018. He is accused lying to federal agents about contact with reporters. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Former security director of the Senate Intelligence Committee James A. Wolfe walks outside the committee secure hearing room on Capitol Hill May 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. - Wolfe was arrested and indicted on charges of lying to FBI agents over press leaks, the Department of Justice said on June 7, 2018, in an investigation that saw the records of a New York Times journalist seized. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 8: James A. Wolfe, a former Senate Intelligence Committee aide, exits the Edward A. Garmatz United States Courthouse on June 8, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. Wolfe has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of lying to FBI agents while they were investigating the disclosure of classified information to reporters. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 8: James A. Wolfe, a former Senate Intelligence Committee aide, exits the Edward A. Garmatz United States Courthouse on June 8, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. Wolfe has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of lying to FBI agents while they were investigating the disclosure of classified information to reporters. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 8: James A. Wolfe, a former Senate Intelligence Committee aide, exits the Edward A. Garmatz United States Courthouse on June 8, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. Wolfe has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of lying to FBI agents while they were investigating the disclosure of classified information to reporters. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 8: James A. Wolfe, a former Senate Intelligence Committee aide, exits the Edward A. Garmatz United States Courthouse on June 8, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. Wolfe has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of lying to FBI agents while they were investigating the disclosure of classified information to reporters. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 19: James Wolfe, security director for the Senate Intelligence Committee, left, escorts Michael Cohen, center, a personal attorney for President Trump, as he leaves Hart Building after his meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss Russian interference in the 2016 election was postponed on September 19, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 19: James Wolfe, security director for the Senate Intelligence Committee, escorts Michael Cohen, center, a personal attorney for President Trump, as he leaves Hart Building after his meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss Russian interference in the 2016 election was postponed on September 19, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 11: James Wolfe, former director of security for the Senate Intelligence Committee walks in to the Washington FBI Field Office to be processed on June 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. Wolfe was arrested last week on federal charges for leaking committee information to reporters. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Defense lawyer Joshua Dratel said that to his knowledge there was no precedent for courts to enjoin people who are not parties before the court from commenting on court proceedings. Dratel added, however, that Wolfe's lawyers could try to argue that because Trump's own lawyer declared the president the nation's top law enforcement officer, Trump might be subject to a court order.

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.

He remains free on his personal recognizance but had to surrender his passport and cannot leave the Washington D.C. area without the approval of authorities.

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 did not disclose to two journalists information he had learned while working for the committee.

Wolfe is not specifically accused of leaking classified information. But in the indictment, prosecutors allege that after a message exchange with one reporter, the journalist in April 2017 published an article describing how one-time Trump campaign adviser Carter Page had been in contact with a Russian intelligence operative in 2013.

Such an article was published on the BuzzFeed website under the byline of Ali Watkins, now a New York Times reporter. The newspaper reported last week that investigators had secretly seized Watkins' telephone and email records.

The indictment said that the FBI was also aware of message traffic, including text messages, phone calls and messages over the encrypted Signal app, which Wolfe exchanged with two other journalists.

The Times said Watkins previously had a three-year romantic relationship with Wolfe. Both Wolfe and Watkins have denied that Wolfe leaked information to her.

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. (Reporting by Mark Hosenball Writing by Lisa Lambert Editing by Frances Kerry, Bill Berkrot and Cynthia Osterman)

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