Dossier author Chris Steele referred to DOJ by Grassley and Graham



FILE PHOTO - Sen. Chuck Grassley speaks with reporters ahead of votes on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
FILE
PHOTO – Sen. Chuck Grassley speaks with reporters ahead of votes
on Capitol Hill in Washington

Thomson
Reuters


  • Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham sent
    a criminal referral about “dossier” author Christopher Steele
    to the DOJ on Friday.
  • The letter, which was sent along with undisclosed
    classified attachments, accused Steele of making false
    statements about whether he spoke to the press about the
    dossier’s claims.
  • Legal experts said the referral seemed politically
    motivated insofar as it did not appear to provide information
    to the FBI that the bureau did not already have. 

Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham issued a
criminal referral to the Justice Department on Friday, urging the
department to examine whether the former British spy Christopher
Steele made false statements to the FBI “about the distribution
of claims” contained in a dossier he authored about the
Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia.

In a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI
Director Chris Wray, Grassley and Graham wrote: “Attached please
find a classified memorandum related to certain communications
between Christopher Steele and multiple US news
outlets regarding the so-called ‘Trump dossier’ that Mr. Steele
compiled on behalf of Fusion GPS for the Clinton Campaign and the
Democratic National Committee and also provided to the
FBI.”

“Based on the information contained therein, we are
respectfully referring Mr. Steele to you for investigation of
potential violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1001, for statements the
Committee has reason to believe Mr. Steele made regarding his
distribution of information contained in the dossier,” the
Senators wrote.

The criminal referral does not pertain to the veracity of
the dossier’s claims, and “is not intended to be an allegation of
a crime,” according to a committee press release. 


steele
Christopher
Steele

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“I don’t take lightly making a referral for criminal
investigation,” Grassley said in a statement. “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.”

Graham said in a separate statement 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.”

The senators did not disclose what led them to believe that
Steele had misled the FBI. It is unclear why the DOJ would not
have moved to charge Steele if the FBI had found evidence of
wrongdoing in their interviews with him.

Steele’s relationship with the bureau long predated his role in
collecting information about Trump’s Russia ties, and the FBI
took his intelligence seriously as it corroborated aspects of the
investigation they had already opened into the Trump campaign’s
ties to Moscow.

There is no evidence that Steele himself was ever under FBI
investigation or gave a formal interview to the bureau, raising
questions about whether his comments to federal agents regarding
the dossier were material.

“I cannot understand why it would be necessary for members
of Congress to make a criminal referral to the FBI concerning
information we know the FBI already has,” said Democratic Senator
Sheldon Whitehouse, who sits on the Senate Judiciary
Committee.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s ranking
member, said she

wasn’t
consulted about this referral nor were any of my Democratic
colleagues.”

A political stunt?

Legal experts said the referral seemed politically motivated
because it did not appear to provide information to the FBI that
the bureau did not already have. 

“A referral that offered evidence of lying to Congress
would be more likely to give the FBI something new and would be
more likely to carry some weight,” said William Yeomans, a
former deputy assistant attorney general who spent 26 years at
the Justice Department.

“If they are giving the FBI information it already has that
suggests Steele lied to the FBI, the referral has little import.
The bottom line is that the referral only matters to the extent
it gives the FBI relevant evidence or otherwise unknown and
credible allegations,” he said. “Otherwise, i

t
should be viewed as a political act.”

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti largely
agreed.

“This is either a PR stunt or an attempt by Senators who
control DOJ funding to undermine the investigation,” Mariotti
said in an interview. “Either way, it’s problematic, because it
seems like an attempt to influence DOJ charging
decisions.”

Matt Miller, a former DOJ spokesman who served under
President Barack Obama, said: “Every person in Congress has a
decision to make right now, and Graham and Grassley have
apparently decided they want to be remembered for carrying Donald
Trump’s water rather than getting to the bottom of how Russia
interfered in our election.”

Grassley sent letters to the DOJ in October
seeking more information about FBI
agent 
Peter Strzok — who sent a
series of text messages during the campaign that were critical of
President Donald Trump and other political leaders — and an
informant in the Uranium One probe, among others.

A spokeswoman for Grassley said last month that the
Judiciary Committee’s majority was focused on examining “improper
political influence” within the FBI and DOJ “spanning two
administrations.”

Feinstein, meanwhile, said the Democrats’ “focus is
obstruction of justice and whether there was
cooperation/collusion between the Trump administration and
Russia.”

‘We should all be skeptical’

The opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which hired Steele to
investigate Trump’s Russia ties in mid-2016, accused Grassley of
refusing to release the transcripts of their interview with the
Judiciary Committee in August. Fusion cofounders Glenn Simpson
and Peter Fritsch said in a New York Times op-ed this week
that committee Republicans were “selectively” leaking details
about the testimony “to media outlets on the far right.”

Josh Levy, a lawyer for Fusion GPS, said Friday that “publicizing
a criminal referral based on classified information raises
serious questions about whether this letter is nothing more than
another attempt to discredit government sources, in the midst of
an ongoing criminal investigation. We should all be skeptical in
the extreme.”

Simpson and Fritsch wrote in the op-ed that lawmakers said they
should investigate Trump’s history with Deutsche Bank, his
real-estate deals with “dubious Russians in arrangements that
often raised questions about money laundering,” and his former
campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s “coziness with Moscow and
financial ties to Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin.”

Grassley shot back, claiming that Fusion did not want the
transcripts to be made public at the time of their testimony. But
Fusion said in a later statement that, after reviewing the
transcript and making sure it did not reveal private client
information, they wanted it to be released.

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