Grassley pushes to reveal more about Steele criminal referral

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP's Grassley admonishes Trump on Kelly comments  Senate barrels toward showdown over Trump's court picks Trump set to have close ally Graham in powerful chairmanship MORE (R-Iowa) is pushing the FBI to allow him to make public more details from an unclassified criminal referral of Christopher Steele, the author of the controversial opposition research dossier on then-candidate Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpPaul Ryan defends Navy admiral after Trump's criticism Trump discussing visit overseas to troops following criticism: report Retired Army General: Trump is ‘acting like an 8th grader’ in attacking ex-Navy SEAL who led bin Laden operation MORE.

Grassley, along with Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCIA's report complicates US response to Khashoggi murder Leon Panetta’s nightmare is today's national security crisis The Hill's Morning Report — GOP victorious in Florida while Dems say `Sunbelt strategy’ looks bright for 2020 MORE (R-S.C.), on Monday morning released a heavily redacted version of the referral, which asks the Justice Department to investigate whether Steele lied to investigators about his communications with the press.

“There is substantial evidence suggesting that Mr. Steele materially misled the FBI about a key aspect of his dossier efforts, one which bears on his credibility,” the referral reads.

According to a spokesman for Grassley, the blacked-out sections of the referral contain “verbatim quotes” from government surveillance warrant applications that include “the government’s description of Steele’s statements to the FBI about his contacts with the media.”

Those same warrant applications are referenced in a House Intelligence Committee memo that was declassified on Friday. Grassley and Graham now argue that the classification of the referral should be updated and the redactions removed.

The bureau only signed off on the release of the redacted version of the referral after Trump declassified the House Intelligence Committee memo.

“Seeking transparency and cooperation should not be this challenging,” Grassley said. "The government should not be blotting out information that it admits isn’t secret, and it should not take dramatic steps by Congress and the White House to get answers that the American people are demanding.”

The Steele dossier has been a flashpoint in the debate over the federal investigation into Trump’s presidential campaign. Republicans have alleged that the FBI inappropriately relied on the document, once described as “salacious and unverified” by former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyQuestions grow about FBI vetting of Christopher Steele’s Russia expertise Ivanka Trump sent hundreds of emails about government business on personal account: report Mueller could turn easy Trump answers into difficult situation MORE, to obtain a surveillance warrant on Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

The House Intelligence Committee memo, spearheaded by Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesHeads up, GOP: Elections have consequences Overnight Energy: Trump, California leaders clash over fires | Trump says oil prices should be 'much lower' | Zinke criticizes media coverage | Officials consider new truck pollution rule Trump, California battle over climate and cause of fires MORE (R-Calif.), also raises concerns about Steele’s communications with the press.

“Steele was suspended and then terminated as an FBI source for what the FBI defines as the most serious of violation — an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI in an October 30, 2016 Mother Jones article by David Corn,” the memo reads.

“Steele should have been terminated for his previous undisclosed contacts with Yahoo and other outlets in September — before the Page application was submitted to the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] in October — but Steele improperly concealed from and lied to the FBI about those contacts.”

Democrats have argued that the Republican efforts to discredit Steele and allege wrongdoing related to the dossier at the Justice Department are part of a unified effort to muddy the waters around the ongoing federal investigation, now in the hands of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE.

Intelligence Committee Republicans behind the memo insist that its findings have no bearing on the Mueller investigation, which they say should continue unimpeded.

Trump on Saturday tweeted the memo “totally vindicates” him.