The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee recommended Friday that the Justice Department investigate the author of the infamous Steele dossier, which alleges the Russians possess compromising information regarding President Trump’s finances and personal activities.
To be clear, this is only a criminal referral. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and the letter’s co-author, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., are not recommending that charges be brought against the dossier’s author, Christopher Steele. Rather, they’re recommending an investigation into whether Steele lied to the FBI about shopping his dossier to reporters, attorney Gabriel Malor helpfully explained Friday.
And yet, here’s the headline that the New York Times published on Friday: "Republican Senators Recommend Charges Against Author of Trump Dossier."
Eh. Close, but no cigar.
The Times amended the headline Friday afternoon so that it now reads, “Republican Senators Raise Possible Charges Against Author of Trump Dossier.”
Closer, but it still seems a bit off. Remember: This is a criminal referral. Grassley and Graham did not recommend charges. They did not recommend that the content of the dossier be investigated. They did not recommend that there be an investigation of federal investigators' handling of the dossier’s contents.
The letter is about taking a second look at whether Steele lied about circulating his alleged findings in media.
“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,” the letter reads.
Just in: Sens. Grassley and Graham are referring Christopher Steele to DOJ "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 in the dossier." pic.twitter.com/VltWm70pVr— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) January 5, 2018
The federal criminal code cited is a reference to the statute that states it is illegal to knowingly make false or misleading statements to federal investigators.
Whether this is all a dog-and-pony show (it is) is a separate debate.
For now, we’re just here to note the New York Times got over its skis. The whole Russia/collusion thing is complicated and twisted enough without confusing hyperbole and not-quite-accurate headlines. Let’s not make it more confusing.