The Corner

Law & the Courts

GOP Senators Refer Author of ‘Trump Dossier’ for Criminal Investigation; Ignorant Critics Leap to Conclusions

It’s not Friday afternoon without breaking news. Republican Senators Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Lindsey Graham, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, wrote a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI director Christopher Wray referring Christopher Steele, the author of the “Trump dossier,” for criminal investigation. While the substance of the referral is contained in a classified memorandum and thus hidden from public view, the allegation appears to be that Steele made false statements to federal authorities about communications with media outlets regarding the dossier. The referral isn’t related to the substance of the dossier itself.

As usual, the online response was immediate and furious — with all the usual critics presuming that the referral was nothing but a partisan hit job designed to divert attention form the real Trump/Russia scandal. It’s as if the only relevant public corruption investigation in the United States is the investigation of Trump and his campaign. Keep in mind, they reached this conclusion without examining the classified evidence. 

That’s some framing. Steele was retained by Democrats to investigate the Trump campaign, not to “expose” Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. He’s not a whistle-blower. He’s an opposition researcher, and nothing about his role in the election (including his efforts to investigate Trump) relieves him of relevant legal obligations to tell the truth.

Since the criminal referral came from politicians, one would have to be naïve to assume that it’s entirely free of partisan taint, but it would be reckless to the point of corrupt to refer a man for investigation absent compelling evidence of wrongdoing. If Grassley and Graham did such a thing, it would exhibit a level of vindictiveness and dishonesty that’s out of character for both men. Moreover, we can’t forget that the 2016 election featured two shady campaigns fronted by two distrusted candidates. There is simply no reason to presume that Clintonworld was pure as the driven snow. 

We don’t have the classified memorandum. We don’t know if Mueller was looking at these same claims. Time will tell if the referral is legitimate, a vindictive partisan attack, or some combination of the two. In the meantime, we’re reminded once again that when it comes to the Russian investigation, anger often outstrips knowledge.

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