GOP senator places hold on Trump counterintelligence nominee
© Greg Nash

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul Top GOP senator: Drug pricing action unlikely before end of year Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock MORE (R-Iowa) is placing a hold on President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate 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 McConnellOvernight Health Care: Fireworks on health care expected at Dem debate | Trump FDA pick dodges on vaping ban | Trump to host meeting on youth vaping Friday | AMA calls for immediate vaping ban GOP senator blocks vote on House-passed Violence Against Women Act On The Money: Senate scraps plan to force second shutdown vote | Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny | McConnell rips House Dems for holding up trade deal MORE (R-Ky.) to file cloture and eat up days of floor time in order for him to be confirmed. 

Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsHillicon 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 This week: Democrats churn toward next phase of impeachment fight 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 GowdyFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Conway spars with Wallace on whether White House will cooperate with impeachment inquiry after formal vote Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' 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 CornynTensions rise in Senate's legislative 'graveyard' Congress feels heat to act on youth vaping Senate passes legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters MORE (R-Texas) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: Report on alleged surveillance abuse in 2016 to be released Dec. 9 McConnell hopes Senate impeachment trial 'not too lengthy a process' Hillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack 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.