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 TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border 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 GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - What to watch for as Mueller’s probe winds down Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Drug pricing fight centers on insulin | Florida governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs | Dems blast proposed ObamaCare changes Drug pricing fight centers on insulin MORE (R-Iowa) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump says he'll '100 percent' veto measure blocking emergency declaration Overnight Defense: Dems tee up Tuesday vote against Trump's emergency declaration | GOP expects few defections | Trump doubles number of troops staying in Syria to 400 On The Money: Dems set Tuesday vote on Trump's emergency declaration | Most Republicans expected to back Trump | Senate plots to avoid fall shutdown drama | Powell heading before Congress MORE (R-S.C.) to the Justice Department asking Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinEx-Trump aide: Can’t imagine Mueller not giving House a ‘roadmap’ to impeachment Rosenstein: My time at DOJ is 'coming to an end' Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump 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 FeinsteinKids confront Feinstein over Green New Deal Feinstein says she thinks Biden will run after meeting with him Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao seeks to clarify past remarks on date rape 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.