As Matthew Yglesias and Andrew Prokop at Vox explained "Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) made the first criminal referral from congressional investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election on Friday," and rather than request charges against anyone actually involved in the criminal probe on Russian interference in our elections, they'd like charges brought against "Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who worked during the 2016 campaign cycle on compiling a dossier alleging the existence of a conspiracy between Donald Trump and the Russian government."
Fusion GPS, who hired Steele to investigate Trump, first on behalf of Republican donors during the presidential primary and then later on passed that information on to the Clinton campaign and the FBI, has done opposition research for both parties, but that hasn't stopped Republicans from ignoring the fact that the firm is nonpartisan, attacking them to muddy the waters in the Mueller investigation, and refusing to release the transcripts of their testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Trump's shady business dealings with the Russians.
Graham made an appearance on this Sunday's Meet the Press, and host Chuck Todd allowed Graham to do exactly that with little or no challenge as Graham disparaged Steele and continued his demand that we have a second special counsel to investigate the investigators.
David Corn explained exactly what we're seeing here in his recent article at Mother Jones: Republican Senators Target Christopher Steele—and the Reason Is Obvious.
"Anything to distract from the big picture: Putin’s attack on the US and Trump-Russia contacts."
Corn also responded to the interview on twitter:
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CHUCK TODD: Senator Graham, just yesterday the president, again, referred to the Russia investigation as a hoax.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Right.
CHUCK TODD: I take it you must still be unnerved.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, the president does now finally believe that the Russians stole the emails from the DNC and hacked -- and Clinton --
CHUCK TODD: He does?
SEN. GRAHAM: --and the Russians. Yea. Yea. But he believes that collusion is a hoax. All I can say is that it's not a hoax. The Russians stole the emails. They did interfere in our elections. We now know that Trump Junior met with the Russians in Trump Tower and that Bob Mueller is doing a great job. He's the right guy at the right time. He needs to be allowed to do his job. And whether or not there's collusion -- Bob Mueller will tell us. I've seen no evidence of collusion but the idea of Jeff Sessions being able to investigate the campaign he was on is unacceptable. Jeff Sessions did the right thing. It would be impossible for him to look into the Trump campaign activities with the Russians. Wh--Mr. Mueller had to be appointed as special counsel. But we need a second special counsel to look at the way the Department of Justice conducted themselves.
CHUCK TODD: Alright, before I get to that, I want to ask you. Does the president's behavior towards Russia and Vladimir Putin throughout his first year in office at all raise any suspicions with you?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I've always -- I always said he had a blindspot to Russia but things are changing for the better. He finally allowed the Ukraine to be given defensive weapons. But when it comes to Russia, I've said on your show a million times, he has an attitude toward Putin that I think is counterproductive. The president does believe his intel agencies. He is firmly telling the world he didn't collude with the Russians and we're not gonna let him be the final authority on that. We're gonna let Mr. Mueller tell us whether or not this campaign colluded with the Russians and I will do everything I can to make sure that Mr. Mueller does his job. But there's other things about the Department of Justice and this investigation that bother me greatly and I think we need a special counsel to look at those things.
CHUCK TODD: How does a second special counsel, right now, somehow not become disruptive to Mr. Mueller's ability to do his job?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I don't think Mr. Mueller can look at Mr. Stroke, Strzok -- I can't remember the gentleman's name. But the guy who was in charge of the Clinton email investigation was fired by Mr. Mueller because we discovered emails between Mr. Strzok and Miss Lace, who was ---
CHUCK TODD: By the way, doesn't that make you feel better about Mr. Mueller, that he fired him before anybody brought it up --
SEN. GRAHAM: Oh it does, it does. Absolutely
CHUCK TODD: -- before it became some right wing conspiracy
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Absolutely. It makes me feel good about Mr. Mueller but it doesn't make me feel good about Mr. Strzok. Here's what one of the emails said, to Miss Lace he was writing. "I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy's office, that there's no way he gets election, but I'm afraid we can't take that risk. It's like an insurance policy in the unlikely you die before you're 40". This is the guy in charge of investigating Clinton, who called Trump an idiot. When you look at those emails, he had a political bias against Trump. But I want to know who was in, in was in Andy's office. And I want to know did this FBI agent feel like he had to take the law in his own hands and create an insurance policy against an outcome of an election that he may not have liked.
CHUCK TODD: Do you think it was a political bias? How do you know it wasn't something that he had found in his investigation?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I want to know what the insurance policy was. He was fired by Mr. Mueller, correctly. But I don't think the Department of Justice can investigate themselves. Mr. -- or the number 4 guy at the Department of Justice wife worked for Fusion GPS, the group that produced the dossier. Did Mr. Ohr interact with Mr. Steele? If he did, that's a conflict of interest. During the time that Mr. Steele was being an informant for the FBI, we now know he was shopping the dossier to out--journalist outlets all over the world, which is inconsistent, in my view, with being a reliable informant. There's a bunch of stuff about the Department of Justice, how they conducted themselves, that need to be looked at just as much as Trump needs to be looked at. Now I'm gonna insist that a special counsel look at these things.
CHUCK TODD: Let me ask you though. To tie Mr. Steele with the word criminal unnerved folks that are friends and allies of yours. Here's Mark Salter, longtime aide to Senator McCain. He writes to you on twitter, he writes this. "From all credible accounts, Steele is a solid guys, who was so worried that America's enemy, Putin, had compromising info on Trump that he exposed himself to risk to bring it to the attention of US law enforcement. That's the act of an ally not a criminal." And then he directs that comment to you. What would you say to Mr. Salter about Mr. Steele's integrity?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yea, I don't know Mr. Steele. All I can tell you is what I've seen in the classified file. Mr. Steele was on the payroll of Fusion GPS, who was being paid by the Democratic Party to do opposition research on Donald Trump. That while he was working with the FBI, he was shopping this dossier all over the world. That's not what an informant should do. I don't want Lindsey Graham to make these decisions. I want a special counsel to look at not only how Mr. Steele conducted himself, what the FBI did with the dossier, whether Mr. Ohr, who's wife worked for Fusion GPS alongside Mr. Steele, what involvement did he have in the dossier. And I want to find out if the lead investigator of the Clinton email investigation had a political bias against Trump for Clinton to the point that it was a sham investigation. I don't know all these things but I can tell you somebody needs to look. If you believe Robert Mueller should be looking at the Trump campaign, count me in. But if you ignore all this stuff, you're blind.
CHUCK TODD: Mr. Steele's not an American citizen.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Right.
CHUCK TODD: Do you want him, do you want him extradited?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, he was asked to appear before our committee. Come in and tell us what you did. In a public filing in England, he was sued for libel based on the dossier. He said in response to the lawsuit that he didn't give the document to Buzzfeed but he did give it to journalists throughout the world, talked about the contents of the dossier. Mr. Comey told President Trump, "Here's this dossier. It's unverified." I don't think an informant for the F.B.I. should be taking the product and shopping it around to journalists throughout the world. The system doesn't work that way. Let somebody other than Senator Graham look at this. I think Mr. Ohr had a conflict of interest if he worked with Mr. Steele, because his wife worked with Mr. Steele. And this F.B.I. agent that Mr. Mueller fired, the way he conducted the Clinton email investigation should scare us all. It could be Trump today, you tomorrow. So the F.B.I. needs to play by the rules too. I support Mr. Mueller, but somebody needs to look at the Department of Justice.
CHUCK TODD: Senator, you are painting, you are painting a picture of a lawless Department of Justice and a lawless F.B.I., totally filled with political partisanship. Do you really believe this?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I believe that Mr. Strzok was a political hack. I believe that Mr. Ohr had a conflict of interest. His wife worked for the organization that produced the dossier. And if he interacted with Mr. Steele, that is wrong. I believe Mr. Mueller fired Mr. Strzok for a reason. But that's not the end of the inquiry. I believe there's plenty of evidence that the Russians interacted with the Trump campaign and Mr. Mueller's going to get to the bottom of it. The F.B.I. is a great organization. But no organization is subject, can't be looked at. If you're not worried about Mr. Strzok being in charge of the Clinton email investigation, given his attitude toward the Clintons and Trump and what he said, then I think you're blind to the fact that this whole, this whole investigation needs to be looked at independently.