Two top Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are asking the Justice Department and FBI to open up a criminal investigation into dossier author Christopher Steele.
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham alleged in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that Steele may have made false statements to the FBI about his communications with U.S. news outlets regarding the dossier.
Citing information contained in a classified memo, Grassley and Graham said that they were “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.”
Steele, a former MI6 agent, compiled the dossier during the presidential campaign while working for Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm that was on the payroll of the Clinton campaign and DNC.
As part of that project, Fusion instructed Steele to brief reporters from numerous news outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Mother Jones and Yahoo! News. Steele also met with FBI agents beginning in July 2016 to share rumors that he had picked up while investigating Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.
Steele has also reportedly met with investigators working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.
Grassley and Graham did not specify what information they had about Steele that they say warrants a criminal investigation, and the Senate Judiciary Committee did not immediately respond to a request for additional information.
But Grassley issued a statement saying that he did not “take lightly making a criminal referral for investigation.”
“But, as I would with any credible evidence of a crime unearthed in the course of our investigations, I feel obligated to pass that information along to the Justice Department for appropriate review,” he said.
“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. Maybe there is some innocent explanation for the inconsistencies we have seen, but it seems unlikely. In any event, it’s up to the Justice Department to figure that out.”
Grassley and Graham have also questioned how the Justice Department and FBI used the dossier as part of the Russia investigation. They and other congressional Republicans have pressed the agencies for documents related to the dossier.
Graham made cryptic remarks last week about the salacious and unverified document, which was published nearly a year ago by BuzzFeed News.
“After having looked at the history of the dossier, and how it was used by the Department of Justice, I’m really very concerned, and this cannot be the new normal,” Graham said in an interview with Fox News last week.
Graham went on to suggest that the Justice Department misrepresented the dossier during court proceedings.
“Any time a document is used to go to court, for legal reasons, I think the Department of Justice owes it to the court to be up-and-up about exactly what this document is about, who paid for it, who’s involved, what their motives might be,” he said.