Chuck Grassley lifts hold he placed on Trump nominees over IG firings

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) questions Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to discuss the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation in the Dirksen Senate Office Building June 3, 2020 in Washington DC.

Greg Nash | Getty Images

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, withdrew the holds he placed on President Donald Trump‘s nominees after the Trump administration provided explanations for why it fired two inspectors general. 

But even though he lifted the holds, Grassley said he disagreed that the administration’s reasons justified the removal of one of the watchdogs.

“My objection to these nominees was designed to prompt compliance with the IG Reform Act, which the president has now done” with regard to both inspectors general, Grassley said in a statement posted Thursday in the congressional record.

Grassley, a self-described government accountability advocate, said earlier this month he would block two of Trump’s nominees until the administration provided good reasons for terminating Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson and State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.

“All I want is a reason,” Grassley tweeted at the time.

Grassley’s statement Thursday said that he has since received letters from the administration that “fulfill the President’s requirement to provide Congress reasons for the removal” of the watchdogs as required by law.

Grassley had been blocking the nominations of Christopher Miller to be the director of the National Counterterrorism Center and Marshall Billingslea to be the State Department’s undersecretary for arms control and international security.

Both firings have been roundly criticized by Democrats who accuse the White House of retaliating against the watchdogs within the administration. Democrats in the House and Senate launched an investigation into Linick’s removal.

Trump fired Linick in a surprise, late-night move on May 15 on a recommendation from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was involved in at least two investigations reportedly being conducted by the watchdog’s office at the time

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Trump said he lost “confidence” in Linick, without providing further explanation.

In April, Trump ordered the removal of Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community who had flagged the Ukraine whistleblower complaint that became a major catalyst for Trump’s eventual impeachment in the House. Trump was acquitted in the Senate.

Grassley said that on June 12 he received letters from the State Department and the White House counsel.

The White House’s letter “repeats a previous letter from the White House which stated that the President had lost confidence” in Atkinson, Grassley said.

“However, the White House Counsel enclosed with that letter a transcript of President Trump providing his reasons for removing Mr. Atkinson to the press and has informed me that those reasons represent the…

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