Setting the Record Straight on Sourcing for State Department Inquiries
Democratic staff for the Senate minority leader and Democratic operatives appear to be circulating a false, misleading timeline with reporters suggesting incorrectly that a former staffer for Sen. Chuck Grassley is the “confidential source” for one of many Grassley inquiries into State Department personnel practices. The former Grassley staffer was not the source. The source, in fact, was well-known to bipartisan, bicameral staff who met with him jointly, along with Grassley staff. A comment from Grassley’s office in response to comment from staff for the Senate minority leader about “fishy” coincidences regarding the former Grassley staffer follows.
“What’s ‘fishy’ is that the minority leader is engaging in vague implications rather than gathering the facts directly from his colleagues. Senator Grassley has been seeking answers from the State Department on its use of the Special Government Employee designation since June 2013. The Special Government Employee designation is an exception to criminal conflict of interest statutes and can be used as a means of avoiding conflict of interest rules that normally apply. How that specific designation has been used by the department is a matter of public interest, and the laws at issue are within the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee.
“Senator Grassley has pressed the State Department for complete responses and added inquiries as new information came to light, such as whether the use of private email interferes with Freedom of Information Act compliance. FOIA is also in the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction, and the flood of FOIA litigation created by former Secretary Clinton’s unusual email arrangement demands the attention of the committee and the State Department’s Office of Inspector General.
“The information in Senator Grassley’s July 30, 2015, letter was based on a confidential source who is well-known to staff for senior Democrats in the House and the Senate, not from a former Grassley staffer. If the minority leader wants to know where the information came from, there is no need for public speculation. He merely needs to speak to staff for Ranking Member Leahy or Ranking Member Cummings because their staff members were present for the meeting with the source. The source’s attorney was also present. The attorney happens to be a former staffer for Senator Feinstein. So there’s no mystery. Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill know exactly where the initial information came from, and they also know that it was later corroborated by documents provided by the State Department itself.
“Senator Grassley’s relationship with the State Department inspector general’s office is no different than that of any other inspector general’s office. He respects their independence, supports their work, and appropriately seeks information from them to assist in his oversight of the executive branch.
“Regarding State Department nominees, the Senate recently confirmed 652 State Department nominees, including 20 who had been subject to Grassley holds. Senator Grassley retains his hold on only three nominees over the State Department’s stonewalling of his inquiries since June 2013. He was forced to escalate his holds to an under secretary nominee over the agency’s poor responsiveness. Senator Grassley has been completely transparent about his holds and the reason for them.”
Grassley’s Nov. 19 statement on his holds on State Department nominees is available here. His previous hold statements are available here and here. Grassley’s response to the Senate minority leader’s floor speech about his inquiry is available here.