Abuse of power and obstruction of justice

Jennifer Rubin at the Post says it’s a stunt.

The move by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) marks a major escalation in conservatives’ challenges to the FBI’s credibility as the agency investigates whether any Trump associates committed crimes. Another Republican, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), joined in the letter to the Justice Department.

Their letter makes what is called a criminal referral to the Justice Department, suggesting it investigate the dossier author, former British spy Christopher Steele, for possibly lying to the FBI. It is a crime to lie to FBI agents about a material fact relevant to an ongoing investigation.

This is an outrageous political stunt, one with no legal ramifications and obviously designed to take the heat off the White House as damning reports bolstering an obstruction-of-justice claim and questioning the president’s mental fitness have sent the White House spinning.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a member of the Judiciary Committee and a former prosecutor, tells me, “I cannot understand why it would be necessary for members of Congress to make a criminal referral to the FBI concerning information we know the FBI already has.”

Reason not the need; maybe they did it for the sheer joy of the thing.

Moreover, the statute that Grassley and Graham cite — 18. U.S.C. 1001 — requires that a misstatement be intentionally wrong and material. It is ironic that the Justice Committee chairman who witnessed now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions repeatedly make false statements under oath would ignore these misstatements of fact and choose instead to vaguely point to ones apparently made to other people.

Her emails! Clinton Foundation! Comey leaked his own memos! Squawwwwwwk!

Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, tells me: “Just once, I’d like to see the Chairman express concern about the link between the sitting President’s campaign and a hostile foreign government, rather than calling for investigations either of people looking into that link or of a woman who may be the world’s most investigated human, hasn’t been in government for 5 years, and isn’t running for anything.”

“I know of no basis for believing that Steele may have lied to the FBI and thus no basis for the Grassley/Graham referral.,” says constitutional lawyer Laurence H. Tribe. “I’ve been following this closely and am also unaware of any basis for Senators Grassley or Graham to suspect such lying. Thus it’s hard not to view this referral as an abuse of power designed to undermine and thus obstruct the Mueller investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia in last year’s presidential election.”

Trump is dragging them down with him.

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