Two influential Republican senators issued a criminal referral this week against Christopher Steele, the former British spy who authored the largely unverified "Trump dossier".
The senators' referral states: "Based on the information contained therein, we are respectfully referring Mr Steele to you for investigation of potential violations. for statements the Committee has reason to believe Mr Steele made regarding his distribution of information contained".
Republican senators Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Lindsey Graham, a senior committee member, have referred the matter to the Justice Department.
Lawmakers can not prosecute, but generally refer any criminal violations they find to the Justice Department.
Christopher Steele Screenshot
Instead of focusing on the Russian Federation claims, Simpson said, key Republicans have instead made him the focus of their investigations.
The criminal referral is an escalation by Republicans struggling over the credibility of the dossier written by Steele about President Donald Trump and Russia -- and by extension the FBI and special counsel investigations into possible collusion between Russian officials and the Trump team.
The dossier is a compilation of memos Steele wrote during the 2016 campaign that contained several allegations of connections between Trump and Russian Federation, including that Trump had been compromised by the Kremlin.
Grassley and Graham are supporters of a campaign by President Trump and some Republicans to demonize Steele and his dossier and cast doubt over the credibility of official US investigations, including one led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
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A criminal referral is a request to DOJ for further investigation, and is not alleging that a crime occurred.
For months, it was suspected that the Steele dossier, which was shared with U.S. intelligence agencies after the 2016 election, may have prompted the FBI's decision to open an investigation into the matter.
"The rule of law depends on the government and all who work on its behalf playing by the rules themselves", Graham said in a statement.
On Friday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal of CT, a Democrat on the Judiciary committee, called the move a partisan effort "aimed at someone who reported wrongdoing, rather than committed it".
Christopher Steele released a much-publicised dossier last January containing claims about Donald Trump that were said to show Moscow's interference in the presidential race. Leon said the subpoena could "reasonably produce information relevant" to the committee's inquiry.
The Judiciary Committee has not interviewed Steele.
"The referral is for further investigation only, and is not meant to be an allegation of a crime", the committee's release said.
Republicans allege the dossier, which was commissioned by research firm Fusion GPS, served as the basis of the federal investigation in the president's alleged ties to Russian Federation.
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"After a year of investigations into Donald Trump's ties to Russian Federation, the only person Republicans seek to accuse of wrongdoing is one who reported on these matters to law enforcement in the first place", Levy said. This is the first criminal referral in the Russia Gate investigation to come from the GOP. "We should all be sceptical in the extreme".
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