Earlier today Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley sent a criminal referral to Department of Justice. The subject of that referral was Christopher Steele, the once upon a time spy who produced the Trump dossier–you know, that document that up until last week end we were all told documented Trump’s collusion with Russia but now we’re told it is irrelevant.
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
To put it politely, some people lost their crap. In this headline you find, much to the shock and dismay of the US Constitution, that the Senate Judiciary Committee is ‘recommending’ charges.
At left, the NYTimes headline on this. At right, the actual text of the letter. #journalisming pic.twitter.com/anJWd0Wk00
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) January 5, 2018
The issue, apparently, is that Steele has given answers about his contacts with U.S. journalists to promote the dossier that conflict with other evidence. Beyond that we don’t know what exactly is at issue beyond the point of knowing it is a significant difference.
Business Insider dutifully carries water for the collusion crowd:
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 Departmentformer chief counsel to fat Teddy Kennedy and a contributor at The Nation (fixed that for you).
“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 prosecutorDemocrat candidate for Illinois Attorney General (fixed that for you) 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.”
There is truth, half-truth, and falsehood here. All the criminal referral does is inform Justice that the Senate Judiciary Committee has reason to believe a crime has been committed based on the evidence, in this case in a secret annex, that has been forwarded. The act, of course, is a political one. The whole Mueller investigation is a political act, so why should this be different. The fact that it is a political act does not mean that a substantive case has not been made. Congress has every right to weigh in on a Department of Justice charging decision. There is no impropriety there. If Congress believes it has been lied to, then it has every right to get pissy about it. And lastly, if Steele did lie about anything to federal authorities then his dossier, which is already cobbled together from third hand gossip, comes into clearer focus and that does help us get to the bottom of this investigation, just not with the findings that some hope.
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