Grassley places hold on two Trump nominees in push for explanation of watchdog firings

Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyBiden confronts sinking poll numbers Congress needs to push for more accountability in gymnasts' tragic sex abuse Franken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour MORE (R-Iowa) said on Thursday that he is placing a hold on two of President TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE's nominees, saying the administration provided an "inadequate response" to his questions about the firing of two inspectors general. 

Grassley is placing a hold on Christopher Miller's nomination to be the director of the National Counterterrorism Center over the firing of intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson.

He is also placing a hold on Marshall Billingslea's nomination to be the under secretary of State for arms control and international security at the State Department for the ousting of State Department Inspector General Steven Linick.

ADVERTISEMENT

Grassley said he will keep his holds in place until he gets an "explanation" for Atkinson's firing and "sufficient reasons" for Linick's. 

"Im placing holds on 2 Trump Admin noms until I get reasons 4firing 2 agency watchdogs as required by law Not 1st time I've raised alarm when admins flout IG protection law Obama did same& got same earfull from me All I want is a reason 4 firing these ppl CHECKS&BALANCES," Grassley tweeted. 

The decision to place a hold on the nominees will require Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money — Democrats rush to finish off infrastructure Biden employs flurry of meetings to unite warring factions GOP senators say Biden COVID-19 strategy has 'exacerbated vaccine hesitancy' MORE (R-Ky.) to decide if he wants to eat up days of Senate floor time to get them confirmed. Grassley previously kept a hold on William Evanina's director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center nomination for nearly two years, and McConnell did not try to break the hold. 

Grassley said late last month that the White House "failed to address" if Trump had a "good reason" to fire top watchdogs for the State Department and the intelligence community.

"The White House Counsel’s response failed to address this requirement, which Congress clearly stated in statute and accompanying reports. I don’t dispute the president’s authority under the Constitution, but without sufficient explanation, it’s fair to question the president’s rationale for removing an inspector general," Grassley said at the time. 

White House counsel Pat Cipollone told Grassley, who sent two letters about the firing, that Trump "acted within his constitutional and statutory authority." 

But Grassley countered in his statement on Thursday that the White House's response had "no explanation for the removal" of Atkinson or Linick.