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GOP Sen. Grassley holding up Trump nominations until he gets answers on IG firings

The Iowa Republican is placing holds on two nominations until Trump can explain why he ousted a pair of government watchdogs.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, adjusts his protective face mask before a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the FDA foreign drug manufacturing inspection process on Capitol Hill on June 2, 2020.Stefani Reynolds / Pool via AP

WASHINGTON — Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Thursday that he is holding up two of President Donald Trump's nominations until the administration explains why a pair of inspectors general were recently fired.

“Im placing holds on 2 Trump Admin noms until I get reasons 4firing 2 agency watchdogs as required by law Not 1st time ive raised alarm when admins flout IG protection law Obama did same& got same earfull from me All I want is a reason 4 firing these ppl CHECKS&BALANCES,” Grassley tweeted.

Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus, "is refusing to advance certain nominees until the White House provides adequate reasons for the termination of the Intelligence Community and State Department inspectors general," his office said in a press release.

Grassley's office confirmed he has placed holds on the nominations of Christopher C. Miller to be the director of the National Counterterrorism Center and Marshall Billingslea to be the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security — officials directly related to the agencies where the watchdogs were ousted.

The senator's office also noted that the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008 requires the president to provide Congress with a written explanation at least 30 days before removing an inspector general in order to prevent politically motivated terminations.

The Trump administration has ousted government watchdogs at several departments in recent weeks, including State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, acting Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General Christi Grimm, acting Transportation Department Inspector General Mitch Behm, and top Pentagon official Glenn Fine, who led the committee responsible for overseeing implementation of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief law. In early April, Trump fired the inspector general for the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, who flagged the Ukraine whistleblower complaint.

Grassley sent two letters in April and May to the president after the firings of multiple inspectors general, including Atkinson and Linick, and requested reasons in writing behind their terminations specifically.

On May 26, Grassley said that he received a response to his letter from the White House counsel and that it “failed to address” a sufficient reason for the firings.

He told reporters then that he was working on legislation to combat both the firings of inspectors general “without sufficient reason” and the politicization of the post.

“I’ve made clear that acting inspectors general should not be political appointees in order to preserve the independence required of the office, and I’m working with colleagues on legislation to codify this principle," he said.