By now everyone has reported about ABC journalist Brian Ross and his Producer Rhonda Swartz resigning from the network. However, almost everyone pointing back to Ross’s fake news report on Michael Flynn in December; and almost no-one is pointing out the more obvious motive for the resignation.
Brian Ross was almost guaranteed to be “Reporter 4” in the federal indictment of Senate former senior senate intelligence committee staffer James Wolfe. The notorious Senate Intelligence “leaker”.
CTH originally pointed this out when the details of the indictment were released (full pdf below), and research was possible to determine each reporter. It did not come as a surprise to see the staff from this specific committee leaking secret and top-secret classified information. The committee rots from the head down.
According to the indictment Wolfe was notified by the FBI of a classified intelligence leak investigation on/around October 30th, 2017. From the indictment we see that Wolfe was interviewed and confronted by FBI investigators on December 15th, 2017. After admitting he lied to those FBI investigators Wolfe resigned from his position.
On December 15th, 2017 Wolfe was busted; the FBI had him dead-to-rights. However, the grand jury proceedings didn’t start until May 3rd, 2018; and the indictment was sealed until June 7th, 2018. That means six months of investigative work was taking place between busting Wolfe on Dec. 15th, and indicting Wolfe on June 7th.
On December 15th, according to the indictment, the FBI investigators were aware of four specific journalists, “reporters”, who participated in the leak material. The FBI likely had more to choose from, but selected those four reporters -with specific intents and purposes- during the interview with Mr. Wolfe. The four reporters are not named, but their activity is outlined enough to make it possible to determine who is who.
From the indictment [Note Male-1 is Carter Page]:
- Reporter #1 is likely Manu Raju of CNN.
- Reporter #2 is definitely Ali Watkins of New York Times.
- Reporter #3 is likely Marianna Sotomayor of NBC
- Reporter #4 is likely Brian Ross of ABC
Accepting there has been a great deal of work on the leak investigation; and accepting the purpose therein; the Wolfe indictment appears strategic in that it captures four of the largest media outlets within the net. Four mainstream media enterprises are now on notice. With more than six months of investigation, and with the timing of the indictment becoming public, it’s likely the FBI leak task-force caught more than just Wolfe.
Wolfe is simply the first to be identified. Suspicion: Wolfe will likely lead to Dan Jones.
On December 15th, with the evidence and admissions therein; and specifically noting the FBI showed Mr. Wolfe photographic evidence (he was also under physical surveillance); James Wolfe opened the door to an investigative path that was almost certainly followed. In essence, anyone in contact with Wolfe would now be inside the investigative review.
[*Side-note* Consciousness of Guilt – On the day before this December 15th interview, Reporter #2 Ali Watkins (NYT), announced she would no longer be covering the Senate Intelligence Committee.]
This is important because Wolfe wasn’t arrested until six months after he was clearly busted. Within this time-frame other people would be under investigation.
The FBI would be able to use the information gathered from Wolfe, and exploit his compromise, for search and surveillance warrants on other participants within his contact circle. The investigators would not want the downstream participants to know.
Hence, while it is difficult to gain a search and seizure warrant on a journalist, it is noted Reporter #2, Ms. Ali Watkins, was identified and an appropriate search warrant was authorized by the court. Ms. Watkins notified February 13, 2018. [Document link]
Interview 12/15/17; one search warrant executed Jan-Feb 2018; grand jury seated May 2018; indictment/arrest June 2018.
Another key aspect also seems confirmed. Following the timeline from the start of the leak investigation (August 2017, per AG Jeff Sessions); to the FBI notification of Wolfe on Oct 30, 2017; and the subsequent interview Dec. 15, 2017. The Black Hat Hunting is clear.
We suspected a sting operation because it was entirely too coincidental how the media were getting false information. Look at the timeline and you can see where the FBI was coordinating false leaks to track:
•Dec. 01, 2017 Reporter #4 (ABC Brian Ross) gets fake news leak about Michael Flynn. later retracted and Brian Ross suspended. [LINK]
•Dec. 05, 2017 Fake News leak about Duetsche Bank subpoena for Trump bank records. Reported by Bloomberg; later retracted. [LINK]
Dec. 15, 2017 – James Wolfe interview with the FBI.
Overlay the details and the big picture emerges. There is no doubt the operation to catch the DC intelligence leakers is a carefully executed FBI task-force effort. The capture of James Wolfe in December, 2017, opened the door to six months of surveillance on all contacts. Remember, he was not charged with the most serious aspects of his leaking of classified intelligence. He was charged with lying to the FBI.
No doubt some kind of deal was structured where the FBI investigation would continue and Wolfe would stay quiet. Those investigators have been working from that door being opened December 15th, all the way to today. We haven’t seen the full outcomes yet, but suffice to say with the June 7th public indictment, the investigators are now comfortable enough to visibly shake the tree.
Lastly, notice the direction of all the stories. Each leak, and the subsequent story therein, was/is designed to undermine the Trump presidency and reinforce opposition to the president. Notice how no leaks ever flow in the other direction; all leaks frame a narrative against the administration.