Two Republican senators have recommended that the Department of Justice criminally investigate the author of the Trump dossier.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a senior committee member, told the Justice Department they believe Christopher Steele, the former British spy who helped put together the dossier, knowingly lied to federal authorities about his communications with U.S. journalists.
The recommendation is the first known criminal recommendation from Congress’s multiple Russia probes.
Grassley and Graham delivered a letter, as well as a classified memo, to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray containing the basis for the criminal investigation.
“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,” they said in a press statement.
That federal criminal code refers to knowingly and willfully making false or misleading statements to federal authorities.
Grassley indicated that Steele didn't tell the truth when asked by the FBI whether he leaked parts of the dossier to reporters.
“Everyone needs to follow the law and be truthful in their interactions with the FBI," he said. "If the same actions have different outcomes, and those differences seem to correspond to partisan political interests, then the public will naturally suspect that law enforcement decisions are not on the up-and-up. Maybe there is some innocent explanation for the inconsistencies we have seen, but it seems unlikely. In any event, it’s up to the Justice Department to figure that out.”
In the accompanying letter to the FBI, Grassley said he was attaching information about communications between Steele and "multiple U.S. news outlets" about the dossier.
"I don’t take lightly making a referral for criminal investigation. But, as I would with any credible evidence of a crime unearthed in the course of our investigations, I feel obliged to pass that information along to the Justice Department for appropriate review,” Grassley said in a statement.
Graham added that "after reviewing how Mr. Steele conducted himself in distributing information contained in the dossier and how many stop signs the DOJ ignored in its use of the dossier, I believe that a special counsel needs to review this matter."
Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, as well as possible collusion with the Trump campaign. That probe began in May, but the House and Senate have both been investigating Russia’s hand in the election for more than a year, and that effort led to the criminal referral against Steele.
Steele is an ex-MI6 officer who has said the dossier is between 70 percent to 90 percent accurate.
He wrote the dossier for Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm. It has since been reported that the 35-page dossier was financed by the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of nominee Hillary Clinton.
In addition to Grassley and Graham, many other Republicans have alleged the dossier was used by the FBI to open its investigation into Trump, as well as obtain a wiretap of Carter Page obtained through a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, warrant.
The Justice Department did not comment on the matter, nor did a lawyer for Fusion GPS.