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GOP senators submit referral of criminal charges for Trump dossier author

Two Republican senators on Friday referred criminal charges for Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who authored a controversial dossier about President Trump's ties to Russia. Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the Department of Justice that "they had reason to believe that [Steele] lied to federal authorities about his contacts with reporters regarding information in the dossier," The New York Times reports.

The Times notes that Grassley and Graham's decision to "single out the former intelligence officer behind the dossier — and not anyone who may have taken part in the Russian interference — was certain to infuriate Democrats." The senators allege that Steele lied to the FBI when discussing the contents of the dossier — which includes salacious but unconfirmed details about Trump's alleged conduct in Moscow that would subject him to blackmail by the Kremlin — and when revealing how he disseminated the information to American news outlets.

The development marks the first publicly known congressional criminal referral to result from multiple probes into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and any potential collusion by the Trump campaign, the Times reports. Business Insider notes that "legal experts said the referral seemed politically motivated insofar as it did not appear to provide information to the FBI that the bureau did not already have."

As a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's separate investigation of Russian interference, Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has pleaded not guilty to financial crimes, while former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.