Bernstein: GOP criminal referral for Trump dossier author a 'glowing red herring'
© Screenshot

Veteran Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein on Friday accused Republicans of trying to discredit special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation, condemning a criminal referral for the author of a controversial dossier on President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: 'White supremacists pose a threat to the United States like any other terrorist group' National Enquirer paid 0,000 for Bezos texts: report Santorum: Trump should 'send emails to a therapist' instead of tweeting MORE.

In an interview with CNN, Bernstein said that Republican senators' move to request a criminal investigation of former British intelligence operative Christopher Steele was a "glowing red herring." Steele was behind research included in the dossier of unverified claims linking Trump to Russia.

“It’s not just a distraction or a red herring, it’s a glowing red herring in the Washington swamp,” Bernstein said.

Bernstein argued that a letter sent from Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyKlobuchar: ObamaCare a 'missed opportunity' to address drug costs Just one in five expect savings from Trump tax law: poll Divisions emerge over House drug price bills MORE (R-Iowa) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOverwhelming majority of voters want final Mueller report released: poll Bottom Line Pence traveling to SC for Graham reelection launch MORE (R-S.C.) to the Justice Department asking Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinGraham says he'll probe Rosenstein's 25th Amendment remarks The damning proof of innocence that FBI likely withheld in Russian probe Conway's husband: 'Banana republic' if Trump got his wish to go after investigators MORE to investigate whether Steele lied to investigators about his contacts with journalists was another "distraction" to shift attention away from the Mueller probe and the Trump administration.

ADVERTISEMENT

The two senators said they believe Steele lied to investigators during the course of the investigation into the dossier. Some of the claims in the dossier have been proven true with public evidence, while others remain unverified.

"It is such a sideshow," Bernstein continued. "It's another attempt to discredit the Mueller investigation. And why on Earth we cannot allow, and why the members of the Congress of the United States to continue so that we can find out what has happened here ... there's plenty of time when Mueller is finished to look at all these sideshows. That's the time to do it. But let's get on with this investigation."

Grassley, who chairs the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, said Friday in a statement that he does not take such investigations "lightly."

"I don’t take lightly making a referral for criminal investigation. 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,” Grassley said.

Democrats on the panel, including ranking member Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDems request probe into spa owner suspected of trying to sell access to Trump Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — FDA issues proposal to limit sales of flavored e-cigs | Trump health chief gets grilling | Divisions emerge over House drug pricing bills | Dems launch investigation into short-term health plans The Hill's Morning Report - Boeing crisis a test for Trump administration MORE (D-Calif.), torched the letter, however, calling it an attempt to "deflect attention."

"I think this referral is unfortunate as it’s clearly another effort to deflect attention from what should be the committee’s top priority: determining whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the election and whether there was subsequent obstruction of justice," she said.