Grassley to Block Trump Nominees 06/05 06:38
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley says he is blocking two Trump administration
nominees until the White House provides adequate reasons for the termination of
two inspectors general.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley says he is blocking two
Trump administration nominees until the White House provides adequate reasons
for the termination of two inspectors general.
The Iowa senator, a longtime advocate for the watchdog role of inspectors
general, pledged to block Senate consideration of Christopher Miller to be
director of the National Counterterrorism Center and Marshall Billingslea to be
undersecretary of state for arms control and international security,
Grassley has been seeking answers on President Donald Trump's recent firings
of several inspectors general, including Michael Atkinson, inspector general
for the intelligence community, and State Department Inspector General Steve
While the Constitution gives the president authority to hire and fire
executive branch personnel, "Congress has made it clear that should the
president find reason to fire an inspector general, there ought to be a good
reason for it,'' Grassley said.
A White House letter last week addressing the firings did not answer his
questions, Grassley said, adding that his request for information is "clearly
stated in statute and accompanying reports."
Without sufficient explanation, "the American people will be left
speculating whether political or self-interests are to blame. That's not good
for the presidency or government accountability,'' Grassley said.
In a May 26 letter, the White House said Trump followed the law when he
fired multiple inspectors general, but offered no new details about why the
internal watchdogs were let go.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone said in the five-page letter that Trump
has the authority to remove inspectors general, that he appropriately alerted
Congress and that he selected qualified officials as replacements. The letter
did little to quell outrage from Democrats and good-government groups that fear
the Republican president is moving to dismantle a post-Watergate network of
watchdogs meant to root out corruption, fraud and other problems inside federal
The tumult has not been limited to the watchdog offices at the State
Department and the intelligence community. Trump also demoted Glenn Fine from
his role as acting inspector general at the Pentagon, effectively removing him
as head of a special board to oversee auditing of the coronavirus economic
relief package. Fine resigned last week.
And Trump moved to replace acting IGs at the departments of Transportation
and Health and Human Services.
Taken together, the moves have raised alarms about efforts to weaken
government oversight and about possible retaliation for investigations or
actions seen as unfavorable to the administration.
Atkinson, who was fired as intelligence community inspector general in
April, advanced a whistleblower complaint that resulted in the president's
impeachment. Linick told Congress he was conducting investigations tied to
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's use of government resources as well as
Pompeo's decision to approve a multibillion-dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia.
A 2008 law requires the president to provide Congress with a written
explanation at least 30 days prior to removing an inspector general. The law is
intended to prevent politically motivated terminations, although there is
little Congress can do to block an IG's firing.
Grassley's hold on Billingslea will have little practical effect.
Billingslea is already effectively doing the job because Trump appointed him to
be his special presidential envoy for arms control in April before nominating
him for the under secretary position. In that role, which does not require
Senate confirmation, Billingslea has been leading arms control negotiations and
has played a significant role in the administration's deliberations on how to
proceed in that area.