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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
This past week, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley wrote a letter to the Justice Department along with his colleague Lindsey Graham. In it, they recommended that the author of the notorious dossier alleging coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia be investigated for possible criminal charges. Christopher Steele, a former British spy, wrote the report. Their letter suggests that he lied to the FBI.
It's another attack from conservatives who are challenging the integrity of the FBI's Russia investigation. Steele's allegations prompted the investigation back in the summer of 2016. And joining me now to talk about it is Adam Entous. He covers national security for The New Yorker magazine. Good morning.
ADAM ENTOUS: Great to be here.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Adam, what are Senators Grassley and Graham actually alleging here?
ENTOUS: What they've done is they've recommended that the FBI and the Justice Department investigate whether or not Steele - this is the former British spy - lied. They're making claims. But they're not really spelling them out because the information is allegedly classified - that he engaged with reporters and media organizations in ways that somehow suggest that he had lied to the FBI.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So they're actually going after him for talking to reporters.
ENTOUS: It appears that that's the case. Again, it's not clear what the FBI will do and the Justice Department will do with this referral. Steele did meet with reporters a few weeks before the election along with people from - officials from Fusion GPS, which was a company that was hired by - we later learned - by a lawyer representing Hillary Clinton's campaign.
And clearly, Grassley, the chairman of the committee, and Republicans on the panel are interested in trying to find out as much as they can about Steele and about the dossier and its origins, potentially, as a way to cast doubt on the nonpartisanship of the underlying information in the dossier, potentially, to discredit anything that Mueller finds out later.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: It sounds like a potentially risky strategy, politically at least. And also, you know, Steele is seen as a whistleblower by many.
ENTOUS: Yeah. I mean, it's certainly part of a pattern that we've seen going back to the very beginning of this investigation. Initially, we saw some Republicans seizing on what they referred to as unmasking. This would be the process by which national security officials will - in intelligence - see the identities of U.S. persons as they're known. That was an early accusation that was being made to suggest that this investigation by the FBI was somehow driven by political considerations during the - at the end of the Obama administration. We've seen that issue sort of fade away.
But there's a new focus, or there has been, for several months - many months on Fusion GPS by the Republicans. This is the company that was hired. It's made up of former journalists from - mainly from the Wall Street Journal who have been - who were hired, initially, by a Republican and then later by Democrats to investigate Trump. And they operate much like - in some ways, like an investigative branch of a news organization.
They hired Steele to do some of this investigation. And Steele, being an expert on Russia, having done some of his most important work there as a spy for the British and very well-connected in Russia, was able to find these details. And he was - at least, you know, the way people close to him word it - he was so concerned about what he saw that he really wanted to make sure it got proper attention.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. And it was given to an aide of Senator John McCain. And then John McCain took it to the FBI and James Comey.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'd like to understand something here, though. There has been some pushback. I mean, Grassley is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. This is a recommendation that he's made. It does not necessarily mean that he's actually - that this investigation will go forward.
ENTOUS: Right, yeah. Certainly, the top Democrat on the committee has pushed back and suggested that this is an effort to just distract from the core of the investigations that are underway by three committees on the Hill, including the judiciary committee. You also have the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is probably doing the most bipartisan investigation of the three, and the House Intelligence Committee, which is led by, you know, Devin Nunes, who is pushing, also, for the committee to investigate the dossier and other things that are not core to trying to figure out whether there was any coordination between Trump and Russia.
So, you know, the accusation here of the Democrats is this is another effort to try to deflect attention from the substance that's contained in the dossier. Now, many of the things in the dossier are not as - have not been confirmed.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Adam Entous of The New Yorker magazine. Thank you.
ENTOUS: Thank you.
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