GOP senator blocking Trump's Intel nominee
© Greg Nash

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyHouse to vote next week on sweeping bill to lower drug prices Trump escalates fight over tax on tech giants Falling impeachment support raises pressure for Democrats on trade MORE (R-Iowa) is blocking President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrumps light 97th annual National Christmas Tree Trump to hold campaign rally in Michigan 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments MORE's pick to be the intelligence community's top lawyer. 

The GOP senator placed a little-noticed hold on Jason Klitenic's nomination to be the general counsel for Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) as he tries to pressure the agency to respond to his questions about the intelligence community's whistleblower protections. 
 
Grassley said the blockade will remain in place "until the ODNI and the Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (IC IG) provide fulsome responses to questions posed and documents requested concerning the Acting IC IG's efforts to terminate the Executive Director for Intelligence Community Whistleblowing and Source Protection and to hamstring the whistleblower protection program in the intelligence community." 
 
"To be clear, I have no concerns regarding Mr. Klitenic's capabilities or qualifications, and ultimately no intent of withholding my support for him as soon as this matter is resolved," he said in a statement in the Congressional Record
 
ADVERTISEMENT
Grassley announced last week that the would place the hold on Trump's pick, but the decision appears to have flown largely under the radar. CNN first reported on the hold Tuesday evening.
 
The hold doesn't formally block the Senate from voting on Klitenic, who was approved by the Intelligence Committee. But it would require Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocratic challenger to Joni Ernst releases ad depicting her as firing gun at him Senate confirms eight Trump court picks in three days The case for censuring, and not impeaching, Donald Trump MORE (R-Ky.) to eat up days of floor time overcoming procedural hurdles in order to get to a final vote. 
 
Grassley said he sent a letter in November to Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsFormer US intel official says Trump would often push back in briefings Hillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Intelligence agencies have stopped collecting cellphone data without warrants: letter MORE, the director of national intelligence, about "disturbing allegations" that the acting director of the IC IG, Wayne Stone, fired Dan Meyer, his executive director, "as part of an effort to significantly weaken the IC IG's role in ensuring consistent and effective whistleblower protections throughout the intelligence community."
 
Grassley, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, noted he hasn't gotten a response to that letter. 
 
He and Democratic Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHouse to vote next week on sweeping bill to lower drug prices Trump escalates fight over tax on tech giants Trump administration proposes tariffs on .4B in French goods MORE (Ore.) sent a separate letter earlier this month to Coats to "express deep concern" about the intelligence watchdog. 
 
Grassley said the two senators are asking for a "stay of any personnel action against the Executive Director until Congress has an opportunity to review this action and fully understand exactly how the IC IG is, or is not, appropriately administering the IC whistleblowing program." 

The Office of Inspector General told CNN that it "maintains appropriate accountability to the Congress through intelligence oversight committees." 

Klitenic isn't the first nominee Grassley has leveraged in an effort to get answers from an administration. 

Grassley held up Courtney Elwood's nomination for CIA general counsel last year as he pushed for the agency to respond to his letters.

And at one point in 2015 he was blocking roughly two dozen State Department nominees.