Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said hes placing holds on two of President Donald Trumps nominees because he hasnt received sufficient justification for the firing of two inspector generals.
Grassley in a statement Thursday said hes ramping up pressure on the president and top administration officials “until I get reasons” for the firings “as required by law.”
It wasnt immediately clear which nominations Grassley was referencing.
The Republican said hes raised alarm over watchdog ousters before, including during Democratic President Barack Obamas administration. He said his efforts are following through in a system meant to provide checks and balances.
Trump recently ousted Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community, and State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.
Grassley said last month that Trump has the authority to dismiss inspectors general but said sufficient justification is necessary.
“The White House Counsels response failed to address this requirement, which Congress clearly stated in statute and accompanying reports. I dont dispute the presidents authority under the Constitution, but without sufficient explanation, its fair to question the presidents rationale for removing an inspector general,” Grassley said.
If the proper reasoning isnt put forth, people will be left to speculate about whether political of self-interests are behind the firings, the Senate Finance Committee chairman said.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone said in a letter to Grassley that Trump “appreciates and respects your longstanding support for the role that inspectors general play” but that he can remove watchdogs if he loses confidence in them.
In a brief letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in mid-May, Trump said he no longer had the fullest confidence in Linick, who was appointed to his position by Obama years ago.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that he advised Trump to fire Linick but declined to say why he made the recommendation. Pompeo denied knowledge of any investigations the inspector general had underway.
Trump fired Atkinson, who handled the anonymous whistleblower complaint that led to the president being impeached, in early April, using similarly vague language about lacking the fullest confidence.
“Hes a total disgrace,” Trump added at a press conference in Washington on April 4. “Thats my decision. I have the absolute right.”