Top Senate Judiciary Republican unloads on colleague over tweet about Russia probe

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Chuck Grassley
Chuck
Grassley.

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  • Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley upbraided Democratic
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse over a tweet Whitehouse sent earlier
    this month.
  • The tweet implied that the Senate Judiciary Committee’s
    investigation into Russia’s election interference — a probe
    Grassley oversees — had been improperly influenced by President
    Donald Trump.
  • The back-and-forth between Grassley and Whitehouse is
    the latest example of partisan infighting among
    the congressional committees investigating Russia’s election
    interference.


Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley sent a letter to Democratic Sen.
Sheldon Whitehouse on Wednesday, upbraiding Whitehouse over a
tweet earlier this month.

The Democrat’s tweet suggested the White House had pressured the
Judiciary Committee, which Grassley chairs, to shift the
direction of its investigation into Russia’s interference in the
2016 US election toward Hillary Clinton, the Democratic
presidential nominee.

Whitehouse had circled a paragraph from a New York Times report
that said President Donald Trump had asked a Republican senator
to examine Clinton’s relationship with the opposition-research
firm Fusion GPS, which hired Christopher Steele, a
former British spy, to research Trump’s ties to Russia.

Grassley was not named in the report, and Whitehouse did not
identify him by name in his tweet.

But Grassley is among those who have called for a second special
counsel
to investigate the Clintons’ relationship with Russia
and raised questions about who paid Fusion and why it has never
registered as a foreign agent.

Still, Grassley seemed indignant.

“Your insinuation is baseless,” he told Whitehouse in the letter.

“As you know,” he continued, “I have included you and your staff
in the private, voluntary interviews the Committee has been
conducting, including one I procured with Donald Trump Jr., where
your staff and the Ranking Member’s staff had as much time to ask
any question they wanted on any topic, without limitation.”

Grassley added that his “concerns about Fusion GPS’s role in
creating and disseminating the dossier” — a collection of memos
in which Steele detailed what he said were ties between Trump and
Russia — “were not prompted by any outside source” other than a
Washington Post report published in February that said the FBI
attempted to pay Steele to continue his work.

“Your erroneous tweet has since been referenced in the media, and
the myth that I took some instruction on the direction of the
Committee’s oversight work from the President has spread as a
result,” Grassley wrote. “Now that you know any such claim would
not be true, I would hope you would tweet a correction so that
your followers also know it is false. And next time, please do me
the courtesy of asking me directly, so as to avoid spreading this
kind of misinformation.”

In a statement to Business Insider, Whitehouse said he had spoken
with Grassley about the tweet.

“I totally accept his statement that he was not the ‘nudged’
senator. That still leaves the question of who was. And we still
need to act to defend our elections,” Whitehouse said.

Fusion GPS is fighting the House Intelligence
Committee over a subpoena
for the firm’s bank records, which
Fusion’s lawyers have argued was issued for political purposes.
They included a copy of Whitehouse’s tweet as evidence that
Republicans were investigating Fusion in bad faith.

The Judiciary Committee’s chief investigative counsel, Jason
Foster, asked Fusion to amend its filing to reflect the fact that
Grassley had pushed back against Whitehouse’s tweet.

The back-and-forth between Whitehouse and Grassley is the latest
example of partisan infighting among the
congressional committees investigating Russia’s election
interference.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Dianne
Feinstein, recently began sending letters to witnesses requesting
new documents and interviews related to the investigation
into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.

Grassley has not signed off on the letters, all of which have
been made public by the panel’s Democrats. Nor did Feinstein sign
off on
13 letters Grassley sent
in October seeking more information
about an FBI agent named Peter
Strzok
, among others.

Read the full letter:

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