Senate

GOP senator places hold on Trump counterintelligence nominee

Greg Nash

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is placing a hold on President Trump’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.

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“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 McConnell (R-Ky.) to file cloture and eat up days of floor time in order for him to be confirmed. 

Dan Coats, 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 Gowdy (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 Cornyn (R-Texas) and Lindsey Graham (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.

Tags Chuck Grassley Dan Coats Donald Trump John Cornyn Lindsey Graham Mitch McConnell Trey Gowdy
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