WASHINGTON – More than a year after Republican leaders promised to investigate Russian interference in the presidential election, two influential Republicans on Friday made the first congressional criminal referendum on terrorism. Interference – against one of the people who was trying to expose him. ]
Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a member of the committee, told the Department of Justice that they had Reasons to believe that a former British spy, Christopher Steele, lied to federal authorities about his contacts with reporters regarding the information contained in the case, and they urged the department to investigate. The committee is conducting one of three congressional investigations into Russian interference in the elections, and its investigation has focused, in part, on Mr Steele's explosive file which aimed to detail the situation. Interfering with Russia and the complicity of the Trump campaign
the decision of Mr Grassley and Mr Graham to distinguish the former intelligence agent behind the record – and not n? Anyone who took part in Russian interference – angered the Democrats and increased the stakes of the growing partisan battle over the investigations of Mr Trump, his campaign team and Russia
"This is clearly another effort to distract attention from what should be the committee's priority, to determine whether there has been collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the elections." of justice, "said Senator Dianne Feinstein of Ca California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, which adds more than a year ago, Republican congressional leaders agreed that the House and Senate committees would investigate Russia's efforts to influence the outcome
Mr. Graham said in December 2016, "The first thing we want to establish is:" Did the Russians hack into our political system? "Then you work from there."
Since then, this spirit of bipartisanship
The criminal referral makes no assessment of the veracity of the contents of the record, much of which remains unsupported nearly a year after its publication
But the record emerged as Exhibit A from the Republican insistence. influenced the FBI's decision to open a counter-intelligence investigation in July 2016 to determine whether Trump's associates contributed to Russia's interference in the elections.
Republicans, including both, argued that the record amounts to a search for political opposition and asserted that it could have been used by the F.B.I. to open his investigation. They also said that he could have provided the basis for key investigative actions, including a wiretap of a Trump campaign approved court assistant.
US and foreign officials directly aware of the investigation say that the federal investigation has not started with the case and has not relied on this case. On the contrary, they said, the file and the discussions of the F.B.I. with Mr. Steele simply added material to what American law enforcement agencies and espionage gleaned from other sources
. Grassley's decision to recommend criminal charges seemed to be based on the reports of Mr. Steele's meetings with the FBI, which were provided to the committee by the Department of Justice in recent weeks.
the crime is apparent in the FBI reports that were reviewed by the Judiciary Committee, the Department of Justice had not proposed to indict Mr. Steele already. The circumstances in which Mr. Steele is suspected of lying were not clear, as a large part of the dismissal was filed
Two Trump Associates – Michael T. Flynn, l & # 39; former national security advisor, and George Papadopoulos, former campaign assistant – pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the investigation led by the special advocate, Robert S. Mueller III
Although Mr. Grassley made no mention of the two men on Friday, he seemed to suggest the equivalence between their crimes and his opinion of Mr. Steele. acts. "If the same actions have different results, and these differences seem to fit partisan political interests, then the public will naturally suspect that law enforcement decisions are not on the rise," he writes.
In a short cover letter dated Thursday , but forwarded on Friday, Senators wrote: "On the basis of the information contained in this document, we respectfully refer to Mr. Steele for an investigation into the potential violations of 18 USC §1001, for statements that the Committee has reasons to believe that Mr. Steele made concerning the distribution of the information contained. "
This section of the Federal Criminal Code knowingly makes false or misleading statements to the federal authorities. ]
Mr. Steele had repeated contacts before and after the election with F.B.I. counterintelligence agents investigating the links between the Trump campaign and the Russians. The information he shared was apparently valuable enough that the F.B.I. at one point even considered bringing it as a paid source. They stepped back only when the case became public in January 2017 and the identity of Mr. Steele became widely known, which led the office to conclude that he could no longer serve as a source for his investigation.
More recently, Mr. Steele has been in contact with the special adviser of the Department of Justice, Robert S. Mueller III, who took charge of the investigation last year.
Anyone may request a referral to the Department of Justice. not obliged to take the question. But a recommendation from a senior senator who heads the committee that oversees the ministry comes with extra weight.
The Department of Justice did not have an immediate comment on the referral. But Fusion has called the recommendation to accuse Mr Steele of defamation and attempting to blur the investigation into Russia's interference.
"Advertising a criminal referral based on classified information raises serious questions Another attempt to discredit government sources in the midst of an ongoing criminal investigation," said Joshua A. Levy, the lawyer of Fusion. "We should all be skeptical to the extreme."
Grassley oversees a series of investigations related to the F.B.I. and his investigations of Mrs. Clinton and the Trump campaign. He and Mr. Graham insisted several times on the handling of the file by the agency and fought to have access to the main witnesses and documents of the agency, examining a large part of these documents during the last weeks.
GPS Fusion hired Mr. Steele, a former British MI6 officer with deep ties to Russia, in the spring of 2016 to study Mr. Trump's ties to Russia. Her findings were finally compiled in 35 pages of memos highlighting a multi-faceted conspiracy between the Russian government and the Trump campaign to bolster her candidacy and wound Ms. Clinton, including corrupt commercial deals and salacious details alleging a meeting between Trump and Russian prostitutes.
The company was hired for the first time by The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website, in September 2015. Its work was then funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton Campaign, which financed the work of Mr. Steele. ]
This week saw Mr. Grassley engage in a heated infatuation with Fusion on the testimony of one of its leaders, Glenn R. Simpson. It began when Mr. Simpson and his partner, Peter Fritsch, published an opinion piece in the New York Times accusing Republicans of conducting a "cynical campaign" to try to discredit the firm and its findings and calling the Congressional committees to transcribe a series of in-camera interviews with men
A spokesman for Mr. Grassley, Taylor Foy, replied by saying that Mr. Simpson had refused to provide public testimony or additional documents and answers requested after the interview.
Mr. Grassley is not the only prominent Republican lawmaker who is pressuring the Department of Justice and GPS Fusion to get answers on the record. The representative Devin Nunes of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has been stuck in a stalemate with the department on access to documents and witnesses that he considers crucial to unraveling what the F.B.I. done with the folder. And he aggressively sued GPS Fusion, assigning the company 's banking records and sending two committee staff to London last summer to try and meet Mr. Steele unexpectedly.
A resolution with the Department of Justice seemed imminent week after Rod J. Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, and Christopher A. Wray, the FBI director, paid an unexpected visit to President Paul D. Ryan from Wisconsin. Mr Nunes said after the meeting that he was waiting to get the access he wanted.
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