Bernstein: GOP criminal referral for Trump dossier author a 'glowing red herring'
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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 TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate 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 GrassleyGrassley extends deadline for Kavanaugh accuser to decide on testifying Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Kavanaugh accuser seeks additional day to decide on testimony MORE (R-Iowa) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamKim, Moon toss ball to Trump in ‘last, best chance’ for Korean peace GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' Collins: Kavanaugh accuser should 'reconsider,' testify on Monday MORE (R-S.C.) to the Justice Department asking Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Rosenstein: 'I never pursued' trying to record Trump Trump vows to get rid of 'stench' at DOJ, FBI 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.

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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 FeinsteinGOP, Kavanaugh accuser struggle to reach deal GOP Senate candidate: Allegations against Kavanaugh 'absurd' Grassley panel scraps Kavanaugh hearing, warns committee will vote without deal 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.