Republicans Push for Criminal Charges in Russia Probe

Charges would be against someone trying to expose Russian election interference
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2018 4:25 PM CST
Christopher Steele, former British intelligence officer, in London on Tuesday March 7, 2017.   (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)

(Newser) – Two Republican leaders are recommending the Justice Department investigate Christoper Steele—the former British spy who authored the infamous dossier alleging collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign—for possibly lying to the FBI, the Washington Post reports. According to the New York Times, it's the first known criminal referral made as part of a Republican-led investigation into possible Russian election interference—and notable because it was made against someone attempting to expose that interference. "I don’t take lightly making a referral for criminal investigation," Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee, writes in a letter to the Justice Department. "But ... I feel obliged to pass that information along to the Justice Department for appropriate review." Sen. Lindsey Graham signed on to the letter.

In recommending a criminal investigation into Steele, Grassley and Graham aren't calling the contents of his dossier into question but rather claiming there's evidence he lied to the FBI about contacts with journalists. Politico notes the senators didn't provide any public evidence for their claim. Democrats obviously weren't taken with the criminal referral. Sen. Dianne Feinstein says "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." And veteran prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg tells the Post the referral is "nonsense." “The FBI doesn’t need any prompting from politicians to prosecute people who have lied to them,” Zeidenberg says. "They should stay in their lane."

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