US Republican senators seek charges against Trump dossier author

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Two Republican senators urged US justice officials Friday to open a criminal investigation into the author of the research dossier on President Donald Trump that allegedly detailed links between his campaign and Moscow.

The request against former British spy Christopher Steele is believed to be the first known criminal referral by lawmakers in the investigation into Russia's possible meddling in the 2016 US election.

The referral was made by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley and Senator Lindsey Graham, who asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate whether Steele lied to federal authorities about his contacts with reporters.

"I don't take lightly making a referral for criminal investigation," 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."

The Judiciary Committee is conducting one of the three congressional investigations into Russian interference, and the controversial dossier has come under scrutiny.

Republicans and the White House have sought to discredit the document as a biased intelligence report compiled with funding connected to the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

Grassley's and Graham's letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI director Christopher Wray was attached to a classified memorandum that the senators said addressed apparent communications between Steele and "multiple US news outlets" regarding the dossier.

"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," Graham said.

The criminal referral is likely to antagonize Democrats, and escalates Republican pressure on the Federal Bureau of Investigation as it faces credibility challenges by members of the Trump administration.

Earlier this week, two men whose firm commissioned the Trump-Russia dossier wrote a column in the New York Times saying lawmakers backing the president were waging a campaign to portray them as "unwitting victims of Kremlin disinformation."

Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch wrote that three congressional committees have heard over 21 hours of testimony from Fusion GPS, but that Republicans refuse to release the full transcripts.

The two men said the dossier was not the trigger for the FBI's investigation into Russian meddling, but that intelligence committees "have known for months that credible allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia were pouring in from independent sources."


© 2018 AFP

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