The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) , and the chairman of the subcommittee on crime, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), have called for an investigation of Christopher Steele, the author of the notorious Dossier for political opposition research firm Fusion GPS.
The Steele Dossier discussed alleged Russian interventions in the U.S. Presidential election of 2016.
Grassley and Graham believe that Steele has lied to federal authorities on his distribution of the information contained in the dossier. They say as much in a publicly available letter they sent to the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But the specifics of the alleged lies aren’t in that letter. They are said to be in an attached document, which is itself marked as classified.
Steele, a former British intelligence officer, was hired to do research – apparently first for anti-Trump Republicans, later for the Democrats. The term ‘dossier’ became affixed by Buzzfeed to the report Steele compiled. Buzzfeed made the full document public.
It contained explosive allegations, usually left implicit in ‘mainstream media’ discussions. For example, Steele said that sources told him that the Russians had been able to “exploit TRUMP’s personal obsessions and sexual perversions” in order to obtain compromising material on him.
Left Wing View
In September of last year John Sipher, writing for Just Security, emphasized that a lot of the material in the Steele dossier has since been independently corroborated. In Sipher’s telling, “The Russian effort was aggressive in the summer months but seemed to back-off and go into cover-up mode following the Access Hollywood revelations and the Obama administration’s acknowledgement of Russian interference in the fall, realizing they might have gone too far and possibly benefitted Mrs. Clinton.”
As to the Grassley-Graham effort to put the focus of criminal investigation on Steele, Ben Mathis-Lilly, in Slate, says simply that this may “provide a nice preview of what a potential Republican defense in an impeachment trial might look like.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) plainly disagrees with the letter sent law enforcement authorities by her two colleagues. She says it is “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 to influence the election and whether there was subsequent obstruction of justice.”
Laurence Tribe, a professor at Harvard Law, tweets that Graham and Grassley “are abusing their power and disgracing the Senate,” that their letter is “an anti-American stunt designed to please Trump and Putin.”
Daniel Pincus, a singer, cantor, and music educator, tweets of his agreement with Tribe. Of Grassley and Graham, Pincus writes, “Down, down they go. Bought and sold.”
Right Wing View
President Trump continues to deny that his presidential campaign colluded with Russia or that he obstructed justice by trying to dissuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself as to the Russia probe.
On Fox News, on Lou Dobbs’ show, Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) expressed his contentment that Grassley and Graham “understand the importance of the collusion between Russians and Democrats and that we are able to root that out in the future.” Presumably Steele lied about his contacts with reporters (on the developing right-wing theory of the case) in order to hide the fact that he was leaking this news to Democrats via those reporters, and thus participating in the collusion by those who are (again on this theory) falsely pointing the ‘collusion’ finger at Trump at all.
The conservative (and sometime alt-right) website Breitbart has quite recently praised Grassley in particular seeing him as one who has “pile[d] more pressure on Mueller amid a growing controversy over instances of bias in the FBI and the Department of Justice.”
Another conservative website, Redstate.com, is different from Breitbart in many respects. But the two journals agree in this – Grassley is on this issue one of the good guys.