More than a year after Republican leaders promised to investigate Russian interference in the presidential election, two top Senate Republicans made the first known congressional criminal referral in the case, against one of the people who sought to expose it, the New York Times reports. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley of Iowa and Sen. 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 a dossier. The committee is running one of three congressional investigations into Russian election meddling. Its inquiry has come to focus on Steele’s explosive dossier that purported to detail Russia’s interference and the Trump campaign’s complicity.
Grassley and Graham’s decision to single out the former intelligence officer behind the dossier infuriated Democrats and raised the stakes in the growing partisan battle over the investigations into Trump, his campaign team and Russia. The Judiciary Committee effort played into a broader campaign by conservatives to cast doubt on the Trump-Russia investigations, and instead turn the veracity of the dossier and the credibility of its promulgators into the central issue. Representative Devin Nunes of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has also been pressing to focus its Russia investigation on the dossier. He has aggressively pursued Fusion GPS, the research firm that hired Steele. The panel has issued only a single subpoena in its investigation for bank records, those of Fusion GPS. It was not clear why, if a crime is apparent in the FBI reports that were reviewed by the Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department had not charged Steele already.