Sen. Chuck Grassley writes letters after Trump fires inspectors general. But that's all he does.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said Monday that he will "try to get to the bottom" of Donald Trump's latest firing of an independent government watchdog tasked with investigating the actions of Trump and his administration.
Grassley, whose official website notes that he is the co-founder and chairman of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus, sent a letter to Trump on May 18 demanding information about the dismissal of the State Department's inspector general, Steve Linick, last week.
However, Grassley's comments are very similar to ones he made when Trump first began purging inspectors general six weeks ago. Thus far, he has not acted on his tough talk to protect those watchdogs, four of whom Trump has now ousted.
"Grassley wrote to Trump on April 8 and set a deadline for answers about the firing of IG Atkinson. Trump ignored him, then fired Atkinson. Grassley dropped it. Today, Grassley wrote Trump a letter on IG Linick making the same points he made in his April letter. Yawn," Walter Shaub, a former director of the Office of Government Ethics who resigned early in Trump's tenure over Trump's refusal to adhere to ethics requirements, tweeted.
In fact, Grassley's statement about Linick's dismissal is very similar to the one he issued in early April when Trump fired the intelligence community's inspector general, Michael Atkinson. Atkinson had handed over the whistleblower complaint to Congress that resulted in impeachment proceedings against Trump.
On April 4, Grassley's wrote about Atkinson's dismissal:
Inspectors general play a critical role in protecting against fraud, waste, abuse and misconduct, and their work helps ensure the government efficiently serves the people. And they often serve as an outlet to whistleblowers who shine a light to problems in government. They help drain the swamp, so any removal demands an explanation. Congress has been crystal clear that written reasons must be given when IGs are removed for a lack of confidence. More details are needed from the administration.
On May 16, he issued a statement about the firing of Linick:
Here again, inspectors general are crucial in correcting government failures and promoting the accountability that the American people deserve. Mr. Linick led the State Dept. IG’s office after the position had been intentionally left vacant for the first four years of the Obama Administration. Although he failed to fully evaluate the State Department’s role in advancing the debunked Russian collusion investigation, those shortcomings do not waive the President’s responsibility to provide details to Congress when removing an IG. As I’ve said before, Congress requires written reasons justifying an IG’s removal. A general lack of confidence simply is not sufficient detail to satisfy Congress.
By law, a president must give Congress 30 days' notice of their intention to fire an inspector general.
Thirty days have already passed since Trump announced Atkinson's firing. Trump did not provide any information in response to Grassley's demand after that firing.
Grassley is now demanding the same information about Linick's firing, though there is no sign Trump will comply with that request either, given Trump's record of refusing to cooperate with numerous congressional oversight demands. In fact, the Supreme Court just heard arguments in two cases concerning Trump's refusal to comply with congressional subpoenas.
As for Linick's firing, Grassley could look to Trump's own comments about why he fired Linick.
Trump said on Monday that he fired Linick because Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked him to.
"I don’t know him at all. I never even heard of him, but I was asked to by the State Department, by Mike," Trump said, adding that anyone who wants more information would "have to ask Mike Pompeo."
"But they did ask me to do it and I did it," Trump said. "I have the right to terminate the inspector generals."
According to reports, Linick was looking into whether Pompeo was using his aides to run personal errands in violation of ethics rules. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel (D-NY) said Linick was in the final stages of an investigation into Pompeo's involvement in an arms sale to Saudi Arabia.
Ultimately, while it's possible Grassley will intervene to stop Linick's firing, that would be a departure from his previous handling of Trump's firing of inspectors general.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.