* Republicans in Congress are pulling out all the stops to protect the president:

The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee recommended Friday that the Justice Department investigate for possible criminal charges the author of the now-famous “dossier” alleging the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin during the 2016 election.

The move by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) marks a major escalation in conservatives’ challenges to the FBI’s credibility as the agency investigates whether any Trump associates committed crimes. Another Republican, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), joined in the letter to the Justice Department.

Their letter makes what is called a criminal referral to the Justice Department, suggesting it investigate the dossier author, former British spy Christopher Steele, for possibly lying to the FBI. It is a crime to lie to FBI agents about a material fact relevant to an ongoing investigation.

The move was viewed skeptically by some Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, as well as experts in criminal law.

Just to be clear, they can “recommend” anything they want. But one has to wonder why they think Steele lied to the FBI, since he hasn’t testified before Congress and presumably they have no idea what he told the FBI.

* Natasha Bertrand talks to experts who explain why this GOP effort to go after Christopher Steele looks like a stunt.

* David Corn explains the larger context behind the move — it’s only the latest in a series of smoke screens trying to distract everyone from what the Russia probe is really about.

* Ken Dilanian reports that more White House officials than previously known urged Jeff Sessions to recuse himself, making things look even more obstruction-y:

Donald Trump’s counsel and multiple other White House officials tried to talk Attorney General Jeff Sessions out of recusing himself from the Russia investigation, a senior U.S. official told NBC News, amid reports the effort was orchestrated by Trump himself.

In the weeks before Sessions recused himself from the probe in March, White House Counsel Don McGahn and other White House officials called him and urged him not to disqualify himself from running the probe, the senior official said.

We all know why this is: As long as Sessions was running the investigation he could protect Trump, as Trump has said publicly multiple times he expects from his attorney general. But it’ll be interesting to learn who was drafted into this effort.

* Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett report that it’s time to party like it’s 1998:

The FBI has been discreetly investigating the Clinton Foundation for months, reviving a probe that was dialed back during the 2016 election amid tensions between Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents about the politically charged case, according to people familiar with the matter.

The investigation is being run out of the FBI’s field office in Little Rock, where the foundation has offices in the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, the people said. Agents are trying to determine if any donations made to the foundation were linked to official acts when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, these people said.

It was not immediately clear what specific donations or interactions agents were scrutinizing, and there was some skepticism inside the Justice Department and the FBI that the case ultimately would lead to any charges.

Ah yes, the pack of pro-Clinton liberals who dominate the FBI! This is all part of some nefarious Clinton scheme, I know it…

* Kate Brannen usefully rounds up everything we know so far about the obstruction of justice investigation.

* Jack Goldsmith has a deep dive into one of the New York Times’ most interesting revelations, about how Rod Rosenstein wrote a memo used to justify the Comey firing even though he apparently knew Trump had Russia on the brain.

* Jennifer Rubin points the finger at the people around Trump who have enabled him despite his manifest unfitness for the job of the presidency.

* Steve Benen runs his annual tally of the partisan breakdown of Sunday show guests, and finds that in 2017, as always, Republican guests outnumbered Democratic ones, though there was more balance than usual.

* At The Week, I argued that no one is afraid of Donald Trump anymore.

* Matthew Gertz says Trump’s live-tweeting of Fox News isn’t an attempt to distract; it shows what a captive of cable news our president really is.

* And Nicole Gaouette and Elise Labott report that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson insists that he believes Donald Trump is sane.