Republicans Tilt at Steele Dossier/Clinton Windmills

The Senate Judiciary Committee made a criminal referral to the Justice Department against Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous Steele Dossier. Yes, the first referral of their investigation into alleged Russian-Trump collusion is against one of the people who exposed it. Of course.

It’s a bit hazy as to exactly which crime Steele is alleged to have committed. The Judiciary Committee allege that Steele lied to federal authorities about his contacts with reporters, and they want it investigated, although to what end (except as a red herring) isn’t clear.

The Senate Judiciary Committee behaves as if the Steele Dossier is the lynchpin against all the anti-Trump allegations, and if it were discredited all would be resolved in Trump’s favor. But it seems to me the Steele Dossier is nearly irrelevant at this point. It wasn’t even the first clue of possible collusion that caught the FBI’s interest, as was once believed. We now know the first clue was Trump foreign policy adviser/coffee boy George Papadopoulos’s drunken bragging to an Australian ambassador that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Of course, it’s also the case, according to several sources, that Trump has been whining bitterly for months about the “fake” dossier, so the referral may have been made to mollify the man-baby.

Seems to me that if the Steele Dossier had never been written, we’d still be in about the same place regarding the several investigations. There’s plenty of publicly revealed evidence — especially of obstruction of justice — without it, and who knows what Mueller has by now that he’s keeping under his vest.

Meanwhile, the FBI (at Trump’s request, the NY Times says) has opened another investigation into the Clinton Foundation. Per the Times story there’s no new evidence of anything; the investigation will be re-plowing old fields. And the Department of Justice is once again investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails. Last week the right-wing Judicial Watch was practically crowing because the State Department released the emails found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop and, JW says, some of them were classified. (And the State Department released them? Well, they were heavily redacted.)

CNN reported December 30,

Then-FBI Director James Comey testified earlier this year that “Somehow, her emails were being forwarded to Anthony Weiner, including classified information by (Clinton’s) assistant, Huma Abedin,” he said.
But there was no indication that Abedin “had a sense that what she was doing was in violation of the law,” Comey added, and investigators couldn’t prove any sort of criminal intent.
The emails weren’t marked as classified, though the FBI later found classified information contained in some emails recovered from Weiner’s laptop.
CNN has previously reported it was likely that some of the emails stored on Weiner’s laptop contained classified information, and fired FBI Director Comey testified that there is no indication Abedin “had a sense that what she was doing was in violation of the law.”

So, again, nothing was found that wasn’t already known about and hasn’t already been investigated. The Justice Department might as well re-open the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case while they’re at it, since they seem to have nothing better to do.

As absurd as they are, these investigations could be used for sinister purposes. Jonathan Chait writes,

At minimum, the effect will be to feed the right-wing news media’s message that Trump’s opponents are the real criminals, in order to supply a distraction for his base. At maximum, the “charges” will allow Trump to have something to trade away — he could fire Mueller while “magnanimously” pardoning his enemies in the alleged spirit of letting old feuds die. In either case, the threat of investigation can be used to make any potential Trump critic think twice.

I’m not sure Trump has the political capital left to make deals like that, though. And, of course, a lot depends on the midterms …