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 (Bob) Swan MuellerHouse progressive: Pelosi 'has it right' on impeachment Democrats talk subpoena for Mueller Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna: 'I'm not there yet' on impeachment MORE's investigation, condemning a criminal referral for the author of a controversial dossier on President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push 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 GrassleyTrump mulling visit to ethanol refinery later this month: report Nursing home care: A growing crisis for an aging America  Senate chairman says bipartisan health care package coming Thursday MORE (R-Iowa) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCongress, White House near deal on spending, debt limit Hillicon Valley: Google delays cutting off Huawei | GOP senators split over breaking up big tech | Report finds DNC lagging behind RNC on cybersecurity Roger Stone considers suing to discover if he was spied on by FBI MORE (R-S.C.) to the Justice Department asking Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinDemocrats talk subpoena for Mueller Klobuchar: 'Don't think' there are reasons to investigate Mueller probe's origins Democrats are running out of stunts to pull from impeachment playbook 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 FeinsteinThis week: Democrats, White House set for infrastructure, budget talks Senate confirms Rosen for No. 2 spot at DOJ Senate confirms controversial 9th Circuit pick without blue slips 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.