Two Republican lawmakers asked the Department of Justice to open a criminal investigation into the author of the salacious and largely discredited anti-Donald Trump “Russian dossier.”
Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina sent a joint letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray. They asked that they investigate former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele on possible criminal charges.
Steele was hired by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to prepare the dossier. Fusion GPS was in turn hired jointly by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.
Adding gravitas to the request, neither Grassley nor Graham are considered hard-core conservative Republicans.
An obligation to act
Steele’s testimony to federal authorities prompted the senators to forward their request to the Justice Department, under the belief that the former MI6 agent lied.
Grassley said in a statement:
I don’t take lightly making a referral for criminal investigation. But, as I would with any credible evidence of a crime unearthed in the course of our investigations, I feel obliged to pass that information along to the Justice Department for appropriate review.
Everyone needs to follow the law and be truthful in their interactions with the FBI . If the same actions have different outcomes, and those differences seem to correspond to partisan political interests, then the public will naturally suspect that law enforcement decisions are not on the up-and-up.
Graham added that “after reviewing how Mr. Steele conducted himself in distributing information contained in the dossier and how many stop signs the DOJ ignored in its use of the dossier, I believe that a special counsel needs to review this matter.”
Both Grassley and Graham are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which tweeted:
Senators @ChuckGrassley and @LindseyGrahamSC have referred Christopher Steele to @TheJusticeDept for investigation after information reviewed by committee investigators revealed significant inconsistencies in statements provided to authorities pic.twitter.com/MKhJlscdKP
— Senate Judiciary (@senjudiciary) January 5, 2018
Letter blasted by top Dem
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, claimed that the letter was a last-ditch effort by the GOP to turn the committee’s focus away from the president. She said:
I think this referral is unfortunate as it’s clearly another effort to deflect attention from what should be the committee’s top priority: determining whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the election and whether there was subsequent obstruction of justice.
Feinstein added that neither she nor any other Democratic committee members were consulted before the letter was released.
Whether notified or not, Grassley’s office observed that it’s standard for the committee to notify the Justice Department when it “comes across what appears to be credible evidence of a criminal violation that warrants further investigation by appropriate authorities based on information from any source, public or non-public.”
Conservative talk show host Mark Levin opened his show discussing the move:
Washington Examiner columnist Byron York observed that the FBI began its Trump-Russian probe shortly after the Steele dossier was published. He wondered if the dossier triggered the investigation or if the two events were coincidental.
There’s little in Washington to indicate that it’s a coincidence, and according to Grassley and Graham, there’s little in the dossier to be believed.