A Disgrace on Capital Hill
On Friday afternoon, the traditional dumping ground for less-than-savory news, two leading members of the Senate Judiciary committee's investigation of Trump-Russia collusion announced their first criminal referral. The letter to the Department of Justice, penned by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), recommended a criminal investigation into Michael Steele, the author of the explosive dossier containing allegations of collusion and criminal misconduct between the Russian Government and the Trump campaign, for inconsistent statements to federal officials.
"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," said Grassley in a statement on Friday. While the move does not charge Steele in any capacity or question the veracity of the dossier, it officially recommends him for a criminal probe.
To say that this decision is a shock is an understatement, but more importantly, it speaks to the cancerous self-interest that continues to inform the conduct of Republican officials charged with investigating the matter. In an obvious yet disappointing shift, recent weeks have seen Senator Graham dutifully curtsying to Trump whenever he gets the chance (here and here); Grassley, on the other hand, has (mostly) been a supporter of Trump's agenda from the start, eliminating the 'blue slip' judicial review process for Trump nominees and, more recently, publicly rebuking Fusion GPS and Former FBI Director James Comey.
I understand that what the general public knows about the Russia investigation is limited in comparison to what the various Senate committees know, but the public also has the right to expect that their representatives have some basic sense of the optics of their investigation. No matter how fair they may claim to be, Senators Graham and Grassley know exactly what they are doing when they refer one of the Russia investigators for a criminal investigation while glossing over a campaign that clearly had some amount of criminal wrongdoing. It is irresponsible and unpatriotic to fuel the flames of conspiracy fanned each night by Hannity and Tucker Carlson.
The US Intelligence community has unanimously concluded that Russia made a concerted effort to influence the integrity of our election. There is no question. There is also no question that there are some circumstances and people within the Trump campaign which would give the appearance of some sort of collusion. There is no proof of collusion, but the American people deserve an investigation with integrity.
Trying to turn that investigation away from Trump, and on to the investigators and public servants who have suffered because of it, is simply disgraceful. We deserve more from our government, even if 'more' just means a basic sense of justice.