GOP senator places hold on Trump counterintelligence nominee
© Greg Nash

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOn The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost The 7 most interesting nuggets from the Mueller report Government report says new NAFTA would have minimal impact on economy MORE (R-Iowa) is placing a hold on President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls Sri Lankan prime minister following church bombings Ex-Trump lawyer: Mueller knew Trump had to call investigation a 'witch hunt' for 'political reasons' The biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone MORE’s counterintelligence chief nominee.

Grassley said he would hold up William Evanina, Trump’s pick to be the director of national counterintelligence and security center because the intelligence community has not responded to congressional inquiries in a timely matter.

ADVERTISEMENT

“My objection is not intended to question the credentials of Mr. Evanina in any way,” Grassley said in a statement in the Congressional Record. “However, the executive branch must recognize that it has an ongoing obligation to respond to congressional inquiries in a timely and reasonable manner.”

Trump formally nominated Evanina in February. Evanina is already filling the position, but lawmakers have decided it should now require Senate confirmation.

His nomination was approved unanimously by the Senate Intelligence Committee and sent to the full Senate last month. 

Grassley’s hold can't formally block the Senate from voting on Evanina. But it would require Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Mueller report is a deterrent to government service Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Anti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age MORE (R-Ky.) to file cloture and eat up days of floor time in order for him to be confirmed. 

Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsJordan, Meadows press intelligence chief on House Intel Russia probe transcripts Overnight Energy: John Kerry hits Trump over climate change at hearing | Defends Ocasio-Cortez from GOP attacks | Dems grill EPA chief over auto emissions rollback plan Kerry goes after Trump over climate on Capitol Hill MORE, the director of national intelligence, said in a statement provided to The Hill that Evanina is "eminently qualified" and the intelligence community will work with Grassley on his concerns.

"The Intelligence Community takes seriously its obligation to keep Congress currently and fully informed, and any suggestion that we do not fulfill this obligation is misplaced. We look forward to resolving any concerns on this and other pending nominations with Senator Grassley and the intelligence oversight committees as quickly as possible," Coats said.

Grassley pointed to text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page — two FBI officials whose text messages critical of President Trump caused a scandal — for part of the reason for his decision to hold up the nomination.

“In some of the text messages, an individual named ‘Evanina’ is mentioned in the context of government officials having briefed then Vice President-elect Pence on national security related issues and planning to brief him a second time,” Grassley said. 

He added that the Senate Judiciary Committee “needs to more fully understand the meaning of the apparent references to Mr. Evanina in the Strzok-Page texts and will need to obtain further context from him and the Justice Department.”

Grassley also pointed to outstanding request for information, including one dating back to November 2017, as another reason he will not let the nomination move through. 

“The committee has recently experienced difficulty in obtaining relevant documents and briefings from the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, ODNI, for example,” Grassley added.

“I ... object to Mr. Evanina’s confirmation until and unless the ODNI provides a fulsome response to my letters,” Grassley continued.

Trump administration officials separately provided a closed-door briefing to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyHouse Dem calls on lawmakers to 'insulate' election process following Mueller report Democrats put harassment allegations against Trump on back burner Democrats seize on Mueller-Barr friction MORE (R-S.C.) and members of the “Gang of Eight” — the leadership in both parties of both chambers and leadership on the House and Senate Intelligence committees — on a controversial informant tied to the probe into Russia's 2016 election interference. 

Grassley, as well as Sens. John CornynJohn Cornyn Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Trump struggles to reshape Fed Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks MORE (R-Texas) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamHillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars DOJ: Dem subpoena for Mueller report is 'premature and unnecessary' Dems reject Barr's offer to view Mueller report with fewer redactions MORE (R-S.C.), requested a similar briefing but have yet to hear back. 

“No Senate Judiciary Committee member was invited. Thus far, the committee's attempts to schedule an equivalent briefing have been ignored,” Grassley said.

--This report was updated on June 6 at 10:46 a.m.