Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

Instagram

Flickr

Twitter

Facebook

Grassley Blocks Nominees Pending Compliance with Inspector General Protection Statute

Jun 04, 2020
WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a longtime advocate for government accountability and the role of inspectors general, is refusing to advance certain nominees until the White House provides adequate reasons for the termination of the Intelligence Community and State Department inspectors general. The escalation followed a recent letter from the White House Counsel, which failed to address the statutory requirement that the President provide written reasons supporting decisions to remove inspectors general.
 
Grassley will not consider the nomination of Christopher C. Miller to be the director of the National Counterterrorism Center until the White House explains why Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson was terminated.
 
Grassley also will not consider the nomination of Marshall Billingslea to be the undersecretary for arms control and international security at the State Department until sufficient reasons are provided for the termination of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.
 
The 2008 Inspector General Reform Act requires the president to provide Congress with a written explanation at least 30 days prior to removing an inspector general in order to prevent politically-motivated terminations. Following the announced removal of the Intelligence Community Inspector General, Grassley led a bipartisan call for the president to comply with the statute’s notice requirement. He renewed the request in a follow-up letter also seeking the reasons for the announced removal of the State Department Inspector General.
 
Grassley entered the following statements in the congressional record announcing the holds.
 
Statement of Senator Charles E. Grassley
Before the United States Senate
June 4, 2020
 
Mr. President, I intend to object to any unanimous consent request relating to the nomination of Christopher C. Miller, of Virginia, to be Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Office of the Director of National Intelligence (PN1741).
 
On April 8, 2020, I sent a bipartisan letter to the President cosigned by seven of my colleagues regarding the removal of Intelligence Community Inspector General (IC IG) Michael Atkinson. That letter reminded the President of his requirement under the Inspector General Reform Act to provide clear reasons for such removal. After a delay, the White House promised me a response to my letter that fulfilled the statutory requirement by providing substantive reasons for the removal. On the evening of May 26, 2020, I received a response from the White House, but it contained no explanation for the removal of the IC IG.
 
Though the Constitution gives the president the authority to manage executive branch personnel, Congress has made it clear that should the president find reason to fire an inspector general, there ought to be a good reason for it. The White House’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, the American people will be left speculating whether political or self-interests are to blame. That’s not good for the presidency or government accountability.
 
Further, the White House’s response states that the President was acting in a manner that comported with the precedent that began under the Obama administration. The letter states that the President’s letter mirrors the one sent by President Obama when he removed IG Walpin. What that letter fails to mention is that President Obama, at the demand of myself and other members of this chamber, eventually did send several letters explaining in much greater detail the reasons for the removal of Mr. Walpin. They were inadequate responses that continually changed and eventually resulted in a bicameral investigation into the matter, but reasons were provided.
 
I have attached copies of these letters and the aforementioned report for the record. I intend to maintain this hold until the notice requirement in the Inspector General Act of 1978, 5 U.S.C. app. § 3(b) is met and the reasons for the IC IGs removal are provided.
 
***
Statement of Senator Charles E. Grassley
Before the United States Senate
June 4, 2020
 
Mr. President, I intend to object to any unanimous consent request relating to the nomination of Marshall Billingslea, of Virginia, to be Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, vice Andrea L. Thompson, resigned (PN1732).
 
Following my bipartisan letter to the president on April 8, 2020, regarding the removal of the Intelligence Community Inspector General (IC IG), I sent a separate letter to the President regarding the removal of the Department of State Inspector General (State IG). My letter echoed the IC IG letter to the President and reminded him of his requirement under the Inspector General Reform Act to provide clear reasons for removal of inspectors general. I also raised concerns regarding the inherent conflicts of interest created by naming individuals holding political positions within the overseen agency as acting inspectors general. After a delay, the White House promised me a response to both the IC IG letter and my State IG letter that fulfilled the statutory requirement by providing substantive reasons for the removal. On the evening of May 26, 2020, I received a response from the White House, but it contained no explanation for the removal of  the State IG and made no comment regarding the conflicts of interest issues that I raised.
 
Though the Constitution gives the president the authority to manage executive branch personnel, Congress has made it clear that should the president find reason to remove an inspector general, there ought to be a good reason for it. The White House’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, the American people will be left speculating whether political or self-interests are to blame. That’s not good for the presidency or government accountability. This is only compounded when the acting IG maintains their presidentially appointed position within the overseen agency.
 
Further, the White House’s response states that the President was acting in a manner that comported with the precedent that began under the Obama administration. The letter states that the President’s letter mirrors the one sent by President Obama when he removed IG Walpin. What that letter fails to mention is that President Obama, at the demand of myself and other members of this chamber, eventually did send several letters explaining in much greater detail the reasons for the removal of Mr. Walpin. They were inadequate responses that continually changed and eventually resulted in a bicameral investigation into the matter, but reasons were provided.
 
I have attached copies of these letters and the aforementioned report for the record. I intend to maintain this hold until the notice requirement in the Inspector General Act of 1978, 5 U.S.C. app. § 3(b) is met and the reasons for the IC IGs removal are provided.
 
-30-