How an Affair Between a Reporter and a Security Aide Has Rattled Washington Media

How an Affair Between a Reporter and a Security Aide Has Rattled Washington Media

About the same time, Mr. Wolfe, too, appeared to be moving on. He gave another young female reporter covering the Intelligence Committee some valuable information, according to a person with direct knowledge of the interaction. Then he sent her a series of personal nighttime texts, including one at 10 p.m. asking her what she was up to. She deflected his inquiries and never got another tip from him, the person said.

Ms. Watkins told some friends that she wanted off the beat, but that her editors were eager for scoops about the Trump-Russia investigation. (In a statement, Politico said Ms. Watkins’s work was “managed accordingly” after her disclosure about Mr. Wolfe.)

On Twitter, she wrote about the joys of reporting on the committee.

“The CIA once told me I have ‘an emotional dependence’ on covering” it, Ms. Watkins wrote as she prepared to join The Times last December, adding: “I thought they were wrong until I have to leave (they were a *little* right.) I’ve loved getting to know this weird hallway.”

A Visit From the F.B.I.

In December, before she started work at The Times, Ms. Watkins told the paper’s national security editor, Amy Fiscus, about her previous relationships with staff members of the Senate committee, and about her encounter with Mr. Rambo. Ms. Fiscus relayed the information to the paper’s Washington bureau chief, Elisabeth Bumiller.

Ms. Fiscus and Ms. Bumiller said in interviews that they did not feel her past relationships should be a barrier to hiring her, because Ms. Watkins said that Mr. Wolfe had not been a source during their relationship, and because she would not be covering the Senate Intelligence Committee. They did not go back to ask Ms. Watkins’s previous employers about how she handled her involvement with Mr. Wolfe, and Ms. Bumiller did not inform other top newsroom leaders of the relationship. Ms. Watkins was also interviewed by several other senior editors before being hired.

On Dec. 14, days before her start date, Ms. Watkins was approached by two F.B.I. agents with questions about Mr. Wolfe, a conversation she immediately reported to her editors in the Times Washington bureau. In February, however, Ms. Watkins received a letter that she did not tell her editors about: a notice from the Justice Department, informing her that investigators had seized some of her email and phone records.

Obtaining a reporter’s private communications is so unusual that it is often reported as news, and media organizations generally protest such actions. But on the advice of her lawyer, Ms. Watkins kept the information to herself. She did not tell The Times until nearly four months later, when a story by her colleagues about Mr. Wolfe’s arrest was imminent; in a statement at the time, Ms. Murphy, the Times spokeswoman, said the paper “obviously would have preferred to know.”

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