Grassley defends request for probe of Trump dossier author
© Greg Nash

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe peculiar priorities of Adam Schiff Advocates frustrated over pace of drug price reform Trump drug pricing setbacks put pressure on Congress MORE (R-Iowa) is defending his request for the Department of Justice to open a criminal investigation into Christopher Steele, the author of a controversial opposition research dossier on President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE.

Grassley said Wednesday that he and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhy Trump's bigoted tropes won't work in 2020 The Memo: Toxic 2020 is unavoidable conclusion from Trump tweets GOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm MORE (R-S.C.), who together made a criminal referral earlier this month against Steele, saw “significant” discrepancies.

“Sen. Graham of South Carolina and I came across some information that does not add up. We saw Mr. Steele swearing one thing in a public libel suit against him in London, England. Then we saw contradictory things in documents that I’m not going to talk about in an … open setting,” Grassley said.

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He added that “people are going to say whatever they want to say about this whole matter … but it doesn’t contribute anything meaningful to the public debate to ignore those factors or to speculate wrongly.”

Grassley and Graham sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinFeds will not charge officer who killed Eric Garner The Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question Judiciary issues blitz of subpoenas for Kushner, Sessions, Trump associates MORE and FBI Director Christopher Wray asking that they investigate if Steele, a former British intelligence agent, lied to federal authorities.

They also sent the Justice Department and FBI a classified memorandum. Grassley said on Wednesday that he is working with the department to try to get as much of the memorandum declassified as possible so it can be released publicly.

And Grassley questioned why officials are arguing that parts of an unclassified version of the memo that he is preparing contains a fact that is classified.

“It sure looks like a bureaucratic game of hide the ball rather than a genuine concern about national security,” he said.

Grassley didn’t indicate during his remarks on Wednesday if the Justice Department had decided to open an investigation into Steele in response to his request with Graham.

Grassley’s speech is the latest in a growing feud between the GOP senator and Fusion GPS, the research firm that hired Steele to compile the controversial dossier. 

The firm and Steele have been a major target of Grassley, who has sent a flurry of letters trying to find out the extent of the FBI's contact with Steele as well as his sources.

The dossier has become a flashpoint in the various investigations into Russian election meddling, with Republicans questioning whether the document was the starting point for the FBI's probe  of potential connections between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Grassley added on Wednesday that “many of his sources for claims about the Trump administration are Russian officials.”

“So Steele, who was working for Fusion GPS, who was in turn working for the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign, was also working with the Russians. So who was actually colluding with Russians is becoming clear,” he said.

Some of the allegations in the dossier have been shown to be false, while others have either been supported by public evidence or remain unproven. 

Steele rocketed into the political spotlight in early 2017 after The Wall Street Journal reported that he was the author of the Trump dossier.

The FBI reportedly agreed to pay Steele to continue investigating Trump's ties to Moscow after the U.S. intelligence community concluded that the Kremlin had run an influence campaign to sway the presidential election in Trump's favor.

But those payments never materialized after Steele's identity was compromised.

CNN reported last year that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE had spoken to Steele as part of his investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.