Top GOP senator blocking State nominees over Clinton probe
© Lauren Schneiderman

Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley asks Blinken to provide potential conflicts involving John Kerry Overnight Defense: Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform | US troops begin leaving Afghanistan | Biden budget delay pushes back annual defense policy bill Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform MORE (R-Iowa) is blocking State Department officials' nominations, citing a slow response over his inquiries on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMcConnell: Taliban could take over Afghanistan by 'the end of the year' Hillary Clinton: There must be a 'global reckoning' with disinformation Pelosi's archbishop calls for Communion to be withheld from public figures supporting abortion rights MORE's emails and a former top aide. 

The chairman of the Judiciary Committee in a statement included in Wednesday's Congressional Record said that he would object to roughly 20 foreign officer nominations. 
"I will object because, in addition to the multiple inquiries I have made that are still unanswered, I sent another letter to the State Department today and the Department has failed to confirm receipt, yet again," Grassley said. "In addition, my staff placed multiple phone calls to Department personnel to inquire as to the status of the most recent letter. Department personnel have failed even to return phone calls." 
Grassley sent letters to Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryChina emitted more greenhouse gasses than US, developed world combined in 2019: analysis Overnight Energy: Republicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process| EPA official directs agency to ramp up enforcement in overburdened communities | Meet Flint prosecutor Kym Worthy Republicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process MORE and FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday to inquire about a thumb drive that holds copies of Clinton's private emails when she served as secretary of State, as well as a potential investigation into Huma Abedin, Clinton's top aide.
In the letter to Kerry, the Iowa Republican asked for "all records relating to the instructions the State Department provided to Mr. [David] Kendall regarding his obligation to secure the thumb drive and all classified emails in his possession." 
Grassley also asked for a classified information nondisclosure agreement signed by Clinton, Abedin and Cheryl Mills, Clinton's former chief of staff.
Grassley separately sought clarification in a letter to Comey on an October 2013 letter that the committee believes was sent from the State Department's inspector general's office to the FBI that it had launched a criminal investigation into Abedin. 
Grassley wants a copy of the letter, if it exists, by Aug. 12. 
The move to block the foreign service nominations comes after Grassley placed a hold on Tuesday of David Malcolm Robinson's nomination to be an assistant secretary of State. 
Grassley said in his Wednesday statement that he "warned the department that if they failed to change their ways that I would be forced to escalate the scope of my intent to object to unanimous consent requests by including Foreign Service officer candidates."
"My objection is not intended to question the credentials of the individuals up for appointment," he added. "However, the Department must recognize that it has an obligation to respond to congressional inquiries in a timely and reasonable manner."
The inquiry over the thumb drive is part of a larger Republican probe into Clinton's use of a private server while she was secretary of State. Lawmakers have pounced with questions on the setup, and if any classified information was mishandled. Clinton, the Democratic front-runner in the 2016 presidential race, is expected to testify before Congress later this year.
—This report was updated at 10:16 a.m.