DAVENPORT — U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, defended his handling of the Judiciary Committee’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, saying he hasn’t talked with the White House or other Republicans about how to stifle the inquiry.
"I can tell you right out, I haven't had those conversations with colleagues or the White House," Grassley, the Judiciary Commitee chairman, told Iowa reporters on a conference call Wednesday. "My job isn't to make the president look good or bad. It's to get the facts out."
Grassley has come under fire for his conduct of the investigation. He refused to release transcripts of a the testimony of a key witness. Last week Grassley and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., referred Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who compiled a dossier of allegations concerning President Trump and Russia, to the Justice Department for investigation.
The Judiciary Committee is one of a number of congressional committees investigating Russian involvement in the 2016 elections. In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, the co-founders of Fusion GPS, alleged they were being targeted to divert attention from the main issue.
They also said Simpson's testimony had been selectively leaked and called for release of the full transcripts of his interview. Fusion GPS hired Steele.
Grassley refused to release the transcripts, saying publication at this time would jeopardize the investigation. He told reporters Wednesday he had not been involved in any leaks. "There weren't any leaks out of my committee," he said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the committee, unilaterally released the transcripts Tuesday, saying Americans had a right to know. "The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice. The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public," she said.
In his and Graham's criminal referral, the senators suggested Steele had made false statements to federal authorities about the handling of the dossier. That also prompted criticism of the Iowa Republican. Feinstein said last week she wasn't consulted on the referral and called it an attempt to deflect attention. But Grassley said Wednesday he has a long history of oversight of the FBI and this was part of it.