Friday, January 5, 2018

Republican Trinity

Deny, duress, discredit.

A year after Republican leaders started investigating RussianGate, two Republicans made a congressional criminal referral — against one of the people who sought to expose the Russians and Trump.

Senator Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Senator Graham of South Carolina, a committee member, told the Justice Department that they had reason to believe that a former British spy, Christopher Steele, lied to federal authorities.

They urged the department to investigate. The committee is running a congressional investigations into Russian election meddling.

The focus is on, for the moment, Mr. Steele’s “Russian Dossier.”

The decision by Grassley and Graham to single out the former intelligence officer behind the dossier — rather than anyone who may have taken part in the Russian interference — irritated Democrats and raised the stakes in the growing battle over the investigations into Mr. Trump, his campaign team, and Russia.

The effort played into a campaign waged by conservatives to cast doubt on the Trump-Russia investigations, and turn credibility into the central issue.

A year ago, Republicans in the House and Senate were anxious to investigate Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election. Mr. Graham declared in December 2016, “The first thing we want to establish is, ‘Did the Russians hack into our political system?”

The criminal referral makes no assessment of the veracity of the Russian Dossier’s contents.

Current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the investigation say that the federal inquiry did not start with the dossier, nor did it rely on it. Rather, they have said, the dossier and the F.B.I.’s discussions with Mr. Steele merely added MORE material to what American law enforcement and spy agencies previously gathered from other sources.

If a crime is apparent to the F.B.I., the Justice Department would have moved to charge Mr. Steele already.

Two Trump associates — Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser, and George Papadopoulos, a former campaign aide — have pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. in the investigation led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

Mr. Grassley appeared to have suggested equivalence between those crimes and his view of Mr. Steele. (Tit for tat.)

In a short letter dated Thursday, the senators wrote, “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.”

That section of the federal criminal code refers to knowingly making false or misleading statements to federal authorities.

Duress is a threat of harm made to compel someone to do something against their will or judgment; especially a wrongful threat made by one person to compel a manifestation of seeming assent by another person to a transaction without real volition.

Anyone can make a criminal referral to the Justice Department, which is not obligated to take up the matter.

The Justice Department had no comment.

Fusion GPS commented that the smear campaign only attempts to ‘piss in the well’ of information emerging about Russia’s helping hand under the puppet of Trump.

“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,” said Joshua A. Levy, the lawyer for Fusion GPS. “We should all be skeptical in the extreme.”


Nicholas Fandos on Twitter at @npfandos, Matthew Rosenberg at @AllMattNYT.

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