A pair of top Republican senators have asked for a special counsel to be appointed to investigate Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer behind the controversial Trump-Russia dossier.
On Friday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and senior committee member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray asking for an investigation into whether Steele lied to the FBI about his contacts with reporters regarding the contents of his dossier.
"Everyone needs to follow the law and be truthful in their interactions with the FBI," Grassley said in the letter. "If the same actions have different outcomes, and those differences seem to correspond to partisan political interests, then the public will naturally suspect that law enforcement decisions are not on the up-and-up."
Grassley also cast doubt on whether Steele could be innocent, writing, "Maybe there is some innocent explanation for the inconsistencies we have seen, but it seems unlikely."
Graham echoed Grassley's point of view. After complaining about how Steele "conducted himself in distributing information contained in the dossier" and about "how many stop signs the DOJ ignored in its use of the dossier," Graham concluded, "I believe that a special counsel needs to review this matter."
The letter by Graham and Grassley also noted that they were not questioning "the veracity of claims contained in the dossier." They also insisted that they were not accusing Steele of committing a crime, but merely referring the matter for further investigation.
Because the referral was classified, the exact nature of Steele's alleged lies have not been made clear, raising questions about whether the Graham-Grassley letter was sent out to partially discredit the case against Trump. One of the chief Republican strategies for protecting the president has been to suggest that the Steele dossier may have been responsible for the FBI opening its Russia investigation into Trump, according to The New York Times. Republicans have also claimed that the investigations were part of an Obama-era plot to harm Trump, rather than because of a legitimate criminal justice issue.
The FBI inquiry into Trump's connections to Russia began after a campaign aide named George Papadopoulos told Australia's top diplomat in the United Kingdom that Russia had stolen emails which would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign, according to The New York Times.
Fusion GPS, the firm that paid Steele for the dossier, said they were "skeptical" of the Republican letter.