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White House

Grassley Says He Will Hold Up Trump Appointees Until Admin. Gives Explanation for Fired Watchdogs

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Chuck Grassley speaks in Washington, D.C., October 4, 2018. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Senator Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) said Thursday that he would block the confirmation of two Trump appointees over unanswered questions about the administration’s firing of two inspectors general, on the grounds that the White House has failed its legal requirement “to provide clear reasons” for the removals.

Grassley said his refusal to advance the nominations of Christopher Miller as head of the National Counterterrorism Center and Marshall Billingslea as undersecretary for arms control and international security at the State Department stemmed from the lack of an adequate justification for the removal of the Intelligence Community IG Michael Atkinson and State Department IG Steve Linick.

“All I want is a reason 4 firing these ppl CHECKS&BALANCES,” Grassley tweeted Thursday. He said he would object to any unanimous consent requests for their advancement.

Grassley, the architect behind the nation’s whistleblower protection statutes, asked the White House to explain the rationale behind Atkinson’s firing in an April 8 letter, and sent a follow-up on May 18 to ask about Linick’s removal.

The Inspector General Reform Act, enacted in 2008, requires the president to provide Congress with a written explanation at least 30 days prior to removing an inspector general. Trump placed the watchdogs on administrative leave for 30 days in advance of their removal, prompting speculation he was attempting to avoid the legal requirement.

Grassley says he received a response from the White House on May 26, but that “it contained no explanation” for the removals.

In a statement, he said “the White House’s response states that the President was acting in a manner that comported with the precedent that began under the Obama administration” when Obama fired the inspector general of the Corporation for National and Community Service, Gerald Walpin, in 2009.

“What that letter fails to mention is that President Obama, at the demand of myself and other members of this chamber, eventually did send several letters explaining in much greater detail the reasons for the removal of Mr. Walpin,” Grassley added. “They were inadequate responses that continually changed and eventually resulted in a bicameral investigation into the matter, but reasons were provided.”

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