Senators Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., sent a a criminal referral for Christopher Steele, the former MI6 British Intelligence Officer and research-gatherer for the so-called Trump dossier, otherwise known as the Steele dossier.
Senator Grassley, R-Iowa, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., sent the criminal referral to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at the Justice Department (DOJ) and Director Christopher Wray at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It cites potential violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1001, or making false statements to investigators particularly regarding the distribution of claims contained in the dossier.
“Attached please find a classified memorandum related to certain communications between Christopher Steele and multiple U.S. news outlets regarding the so-called ‘Trump dossier’ that Mr. Steele compiled on behalf of Fusion GPS for the Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Committee and also provided to the FBI,” the referral reads in part. “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 in the dossier.”
Under 18 U.S.C. § 1001, individuals are prohibited from making false statements to federal authorities.
After a year of denying the allegations, a bombshell report recently revealed the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) paid the shadowy smear firm Fusion GPS more than $10 million to fund the dossier. Congressional investigators have long suspected Obama Administration officials at the FBI and DOJ used the unverified dossier as justification to spy on Team Trump.
The report — which consequently came before a judge was set to rule on a request to make the information public — also revealed that the Clinton campaign and the DNC funded Fusion GPS for the material through the end of October 2016, only days before Election Day.
The nonprofit Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging both the Clinton campaign and the DNC violated campaign finance law by failing to accurately disclose payments for the dossier.
“I don’t take lightly making a referral for criminal investigation,” Chairman Grassley said in a statement. “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. Everyone needs to follow the law and be truthful in their interactions with the FBI.”
Chairman Grassley also appeared to issue a warning about the action DOJ and the Bureau may or may not take in the referral, given there was far less evidence of a crime before Mr. Rosenstein decided to appoint Special Counsel Robert Mueller III.
“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,” he said.
Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson hired Mr. Steele, who notably was the former head of the Russian desk at MI6. He almost exclusively used sources linked to the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which Democrats widely circulated knowing it contained discredited information.
Marc E. Elias of Perkins Coie, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS in April 2016. The dossier was published by Buzzfeed News in January, a move that was widely criticized in journalistic circles.
As People’s Pundit Daily (PPD) previously reported, Fusion GPS has been less than cooperative with both the House and Senate committees investigating their role in what appears more likely to be a smear campaign. In a 10-hour long interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Simpson refused to answer lawmakers’ questions. Congressional sources told PPD Simpson and his lawyer Josh Levy provided thousands of “disrespectful” records to the committee, being that most were blank or press clippings.
“Maybe there is some innocent explanation for the inconsistencies we have seen, but it seems unlikely,” Chairman Grassley added. “In any event, it’s up to the Justice Department to figure that out.”
The referral’s reference to Mr. Steele’s interactions with the media is noteworthy. Bill Browder, the CEO and co-founder of Hermitage Capital, said during sworn testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July that he suspects Fusion GPS gives “incentives” to journalists who push stories for their “smear campaigns.”
The firm was hired by Russians to conduct a smear campaign against Sergei Magnitsky and Mr. Browder before congressional hearings on the Global Magnitsy Act. Newly filed court documents reveal the firm paid at least three journalists between June 2016 until February 2017.
According to the filing, the three journalists are known for reporting on “Russia issues relevant to [the committee’s] investigation.” Further, a filing by lawyers for the House Intelligence Committee claims Fusion GPS “brokered meetings for dossier author Christopher Steele with at least five major media outlets in September 2016, including Yahoo news.”
Mr. Steele also brokered meetings between the firm and Bruce Ohr, a top DOJ official who was recently demoted for failing to report those meetings. It was later revealed that Ohr’s wife worked for Fusion GPS until the fall of 2016.
“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,” Senator Graham said in a statement. “The rule of Law depends on the government and all who work on its behalf playing by the rules themselves. I hope the Department of Justice will carefully review our letter and take appropriate action.”