Gage Skidmore / Flickr Chuck Grassley...
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

If there was any remaining doubt about whether Republicans would act in response to facts, or do anything to defend Trump, consider this the answer.

More than a year after Republican leaders promised to investigate Russian interference in the presidential election, two influential Republicans on Friday made the first known congressional criminal referral in connection with the meddling — against one of the people who sought to expose it.

Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a senior committee member, told the Justice Department they had reason to believe that a former British spy, Christopher Steele, lied to federal authorities about his contacts with reporters regarding information in the dossier, and they urged the department to investigate.

The New York Times is reporting that Grassley and Graham have bypassed acting on any of the information contained in the dossier, and decided instead to pursue charges against Christopher Steele. They have forwarded a referral to the Justice Department suggesting that Steele lied under oath. What about all the lies, corruption and crime that the dossier lays at Trump’s feet? Republicans simply don’t care.

The criminal referral appears to make no assessment of the veracity of the dossier’s contents, much of which remains unsubstantiated nearly a year after it became public.

Republicans were frustrated earlier this week when it became clear that the FBI investigation had begun months before the agency began looking at the dossier, because Republicans have made attacking the dossier key to their attempts to paint the investigation as partisan. And now Grassley and Graham had demonstrated just how far they’re willing to go to wreck any idea of reason.

What’s absolutely extraordinary is not just how Grassley and Graham are bypassing reports of serious crimes to go after the person who compiled the report, but they’re charging Steele with lying to the FBI based on transcripts of meetings from which neither the FBI or the Justice Department felt there as any reason to file charges. That’s not just stretching the law. That’s leaving it far behind. 

Not that Grassley or Graham is about to provide even the slightest detail to support their charges.

The circumstances under which Mr. Steele is alleged to have lied were unclear, as much of the referral was classified.

Instead they are rushing forward with a headline-grabbing effort to distract from the plethora of self-inflicted wounds that are bleeding the Trump White House paler than its name. In doing so, they’re demonstrating a loyalty to Trump that exceeds support for procedure, for law, or for country.

Anyone can make a criminal referral to the Justice Department, which is not obligated to take up the matter. But a recommendation from a senior senator who runs the committee that has oversight of the department comes with added weight.

Expect these apparently baseless charges to be picked up by the right as a means of further attacking both Steele and the contents of his research.

In a week filled with low points, Grassley and Graham prove they’re always willing to go lower.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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