WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said he intends to object to unanimous consent to consider a State Department nominee, commonly known as placing a hold, over the agency’s poor responsiveness to questions about personnel practices and conflict of interest management and proper email use and management. Grassley said that in addition to stymieing Congress, the State Department also has withheld information from outside entities such as the Associated Press, which has sued to force production of documents previously requested under the Freedom of Information Act.
“These actions illustrate a pattern of conduct that clearly demonstrates a lack of cooperation and bad faith in its interaction with Congress,” Grassley said of the State Department. “This is unacceptable and cannot continue.”
Since June 2013, Grassley has sought answers from the State Department on its use of the Special Government Employee designation. His questions came after revelations that a top aide, Huma Abedin, used the special status to work at the State Department and private sector entities at the same time. It’s unclear whether the State Department properly managed any potential conflicts of interest. It appears the Special Government Employee status granted to Abedin was unusual and distinct from how agencies generally use the designation, which is for technical outside expertise rather than for a current government employee’s convenience or desire to work off-site (Abedin cited spending time in New York with her family as the reason for having that status). Grassley has written numerous letters to the State Department on these concerns and other related matters, adding questions as new developments warrant, such as Secretary Hillary Clinton’s use of and Abedin’s alleged use of private email for official purposes. The State Department has been largely unresponsive.
Grassley announced he intends to object to any unanimous consent request to consider the nomination of David Malcolm Robinson to be Assistant Secretary for Conflict and Stabilization Operations and Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization when the nomination reaches the Senate floor. Grassley said the hold is not intended to question the nominee’s credentials in any way. “The nominee is an innocent victim of the State Department’s contemptuous failures to respond to congressional inquiries,” Grassley said.
Grassley’s statement for the Senate record on the hold is available here.
A list of the letters in question to the State Department is available here.
Information on Grassley’s latest inquiry to the State Department is available here.