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Grassley to Block  Trump Nominees      06/05 06:38

   Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley says he is blocking two Trump administration 
nominees until the White House provides adequate reasons for the termination of 
two inspectors general.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley says he is blocking two 
Trump administration nominees until the White House provides adequate reasons 
for the termination of two inspectors general.

   The Iowa senator, a longtime advocate for the watchdog role of inspectors 
general, pledged to block Senate consideration of Christopher Miller to be 
director of the National Counterterrorism Center and Marshall Billingslea to be 
undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, 
indefinitely.

   Grassley has been seeking answers on President Donald Trump's recent firings 
of several inspectors general, including Michael Atkinson, inspector general 
for the intelligence community, and State Department Inspector General Steve 
Linick.

   While the Constitution gives the president authority to hire and fire 
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,'' Grassley said.

   A White House letter last week addressing the firings did not answer his 
questions, Grassley said, adding that his request for information is "clearly 
stated in statute and accompanying reports."

   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,'' Grassley said.

   In a May 26 letter, the White House said Trump followed the law when he 
fired multiple inspectors general, but offered no new details about why the 
internal watchdogs were let go.

   White House counsel Pat Cipollone said in the five-page letter that Trump 
has the authority to remove inspectors general, that he appropriately alerted 
Congress and that he selected qualified officials as replacements. The letter 
did little to quell outrage from Democrats and good-government groups that fear 
the Republican president is moving to dismantle a post-Watergate network of 
watchdogs meant to root out corruption, fraud and other problems inside federal 
agencies.

   The tumult has not been limited to the watchdog offices at the State 
Department and the intelligence community. Trump also demoted Glenn Fine from 
his role as acting inspector general at the Pentagon, effectively removing him 
as head of a special board to oversee auditing of the coronavirus economic 
relief package. Fine resigned last week.

   And Trump moved to replace acting IGs at the departments of Transportation 
and Health and Human Services.

   Taken together, the moves have raised alarms about efforts to weaken 
government oversight and about possible retaliation for investigations or 
actions seen as unfavorable to the administration.

   Atkinson, who was fired as intelligence community inspector general in 
April, advanced a whistleblower complaint that resulted in the president's 
impeachment. Linick told Congress he was conducting investigations tied to 
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's use of government resources as well as 
Pompeo's decision to approve a multibillion-dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia.

   A 2008 law requires the president to provide Congress with a written 
explanation at least 30 days prior to removing an inspector general. The law is 
intended to prevent politically motivated terminations, although there is 
little Congress can do to block an IG's firing.

   Grassley's hold on Billingslea will have little practical effect. 
Billingslea is already effectively doing the job because Trump appointed him to 
be his special presidential envoy for arms control in April before nominating 
him for the under secretary position. In that role, which does not require 
Senate confirmation, Billingslea has been leading arms control negotiations and 
has played a significant role in the administration's deliberations on how to 
proceed in that area.

 
 
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