Chuck Grassley and His Two Republican Friends

After spending several days hemming and hawing about it, Chuck Grassley has sent a letter to President Trump, asking that he “provide more detailed reasoning for the removal of Inspector General Atkinson no later than April 13, 2020.”

The letter cites the basis for which Congress can make such demands: Inspector Generals work for both Congress and the Executive.

Further, the IC IG and indeed all inspectors general (IG) are designed to fulfill a dual role, reporting to both the President and Congress, to secure efficient, robust, and independent agency oversight. To ensure inspectors general are fully capable of performing their critical duties, and in recognition of their importance both to efficient administration and to the legislative function, Congress set clear, statutory notice requirements for their potential removal.

And it lays out how Trump’s move — not just putting Michael Atkinson on 30-day administrative leave (something Obama did , but also naming Thomas Monheim as Atkinson’s replacement immediately, something without precedent that Adam Schiff also raised concerns about.

Further, according to public reports, Mr. Atkinson already was placed on administrative leave, effectively removing him from his position prior to the completion of the statutorily required notice period.


Please also provide your views on how the appointment of an acting official prior to the end of the 30 day notice period comports with statutory requirements.

The letter is precisely the kind of Congressional pushback on a removal that laws governing the appointments of Inspectors General envision. This is not just a show; Grassley has a long history of caring deeply about this stuff (and twice defended Schiff’s efforts to keep the identity of the Ukraine whistleblower secret).

The problem with his letter is this:

Just two of the Senators who co-signed this letter, Susan Collins and Mitt Romney, are Republicans (Gary Peters, ranking member on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also signed). Grassley unsurprisingly didn’t get the hackish Ron Johnson, who as the Chair of HGSAC should make a pretense of giving a damn about oversight, to sign on. He didn’t get the Senator with the biggest role in overseeing the ICIG, Senate Intelligence Chair Richard Burr, to sign on (though Mark Warner is Ranking Member on the committee). And he didn’t get any of the other Senators — like Lisa Murkowski or Lamar Alexander — who purportedly considered voting for impeachment to sign on.

And that means, without enough Republicans to be able to threaten that a majority of the Senate would back an effort to enforce this request, Trump can and might well just blow this request off.

28 replies
  1. Yogarhythms says:

    Prescient whip count “ And that means, without enough Republicans to be able to threaten that a majority of the Senate would back an effort to enforce this request, Trump can and might well just blow this request off.”
    President Trump will not reply to Grassley’s requests for more details regarding firing of Congress’s IG. What is Grassley thinking. You can’t ask the executive questions. The president will speak if you need information. This is Wuhan style.

    • TooLoose LeTruck says:

      Ignore it?

      Hell, I’m surprised he didn’t use the letter to wipe his hindquarters during on of his press conferences/campaign rallies, while laughing hysterically for the cameras…

      “No stimulus for YOU, Grassley!”

  2. What Constitution? says:

    The fact that Trump may be predictable in his response — especially because there is not enough integrity in the Republican Party to object — is not a sufficient reason to fail to demand Trump’s adherence to the notion that he has a constitutional obligation faithfully to execute the laws.

    • JamesJoyce says:

      I guess folks forget how a “Treaty” was torn up in France after French Generals were forced to wait for their capitulation shortly after a Dunkirk evacuation.

      The Republican enablers have emboldened the current malignant narcissist as some did same for another.

      He has no constitutional obligations anymore.

      The bait and switch is complete.

      I’ve seen this before..

      • What Constitution? says:

        Can’t fault your observation. But if the conclusion drawn from it is that nobody should bother to object, you do realize that will be argued and/or presumed to acknowledge the legitimacy of the conduct and simply hands the reins to Trump, right?

        • JamesJoyce says:

          America should never capitulate to this malignancy. His actions are historically speaking very predictable ..

          “Nuts,” is my response to this total self serving piece of 💩.

  3. James Sterling says:

    Grassley: “Why, Mr. President?” Trump: “Because I can.” Grassley:”Oh, well ok then.”

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The Don always doubles down. More hydroxychloroquine and zinc, which he says “many people” are recommending. He thinks the US health care system is the best in the world and everyone else wants to know how to do what it’s doing. (Translated, how NOT to do what the US is doing.) American companies are doing stuff, but Trump is reluctant to say what he’s doing.

    He’s rattling off good stuff, mostly subsidies to the private sector. Nada about what he’s doing for real people. We’re gonna re-open real soon, real soon….

    • P J Evans says:

      In short, he’s still ignorant and proposing medical treatment which, at best, will not help, and at worst will kill people who might otherwise survive. And refusing to do the right thing, which is to shut up on TV and instead get the companies making the supplies that are desperately needed.

    • joejim says:

      And testing is going amazingly. The Post published a piece today including an interview with Gov. Jay Inslee talking about the excruciating time he is having in Washington State. There are shortages of vials, swabs, all the little things, with no help from a federal government that even seems to know this stuff, let alone being on top of it.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Student loan payments “waived” for six months. [About that compound interest….] If the loans not forgiven, payments need to be waived for twelve months. There’s no work to be had to pay them, and students are not getting a fraction of the experience they’re paying for, since so much is online.

    “We have a great testing system – the best in the world.” Excuse me while I replace my barf bag.

    • P J Evans says:

      Before student loans became a “profit center” for the too-big-to-fail financial institutions, they were capable of forbearance on loans, for periods of up to a year, when people couldn’t find work. (They were also capable of handling overpayments where the overage was intended to pay down the principal.)

  6. BobCon says:

    EW tweeted this question:

    “Genuinely curious why we haven’t gotten an answer to this question:

    Has anyone told Trump opening the economy will not work until he fixes the testing problem? Did he hear it? Nod his head?

    Or is he so surrounded by sycophants no one he trusts will say that?”

    I think the answer is there are a few like Fauci who have tried to explain the deal to him, he glazes over, and then 20 sycophants take over.

    But even more worrisome to me is that nobody with any national pull is willing to push for a comprehensive plan that goes well beyond testing — that follows with national reporting, tracking, contact tracing, contact testing, citizen PPE distro, sets up isolation as needed, and all of the associated education and outreach that goes with this.

    There may be some decent state and local planning, but there is no substitute for a national plan. There is no return to normal without a return to a free interstate flow of people, and that can’t happen without a genuine cure/vaccine and/or a ckmprehensive national plan.

    Stay at home orders limit the spread, but they leave gigantic numbers of vulnerable people who will be at risk until we have a comprehensive plan.

    This is the fog that House of Reps hearings could help cut through, but only if Pelosi will push through emergency rules to allow remote hearings with a better format than the BS five minute free for alls that exist under standing rules.

    This article details various fits and starts in that direction, but it is time it becomes a priority:

    • joejim says:

      For every population I’m following, like prisons and shelters, the outbreak is still pretty modest. But about 8 days ago the BOP started posting a map on its website, showing incidents of inmate or staff infection/sickness. The number had been static at 5 cases for about a month, just MCC Manhattan it seemed, but since the map was published they have gone up in one of the steepest climbs I’ve seen, and now 400 are sick, with 8 dead.

      In a system as controlled as American prisons, testing could have been extremely effective at giving management an opportunity to segregate uninfected staff and inmates from infected ones, but instead, its all loose in the wind, like, well, an unchecked epidemic.

      So many assisted living facilities have not had testing either. Another easily controlled situation, if residents were sequested to their rooms, and staff were tested often. But even staff who have been exposed to known cases can’t get tested, and return to work in the kitchens.

      Those are just microcosms of how the inability to manage the virus without testing will have consequences.

      • BobCon says:

        I’d be curious, too, how far the relatively limited world of the Bureau of Prisons has gotten in planning for the return to normal.

        I would not be surprised if they don’t have a well thought out plan for returning to normal operations where prisoners get regular visits from attorneys, families, social workers, and all of the other people who come and go. Do they know who they will be testing, how they are going to track who they come into contact with, and how they are going to contact them if it turns out they came into contact with an infected prisoner?

        Do they have staffing plans to account for the possibility of a second wave of infections? Have they figured out how to do a phased in process?

        I would not be surprised if nobody there wants to get on the bad side of Barr or Kushner or some dope at the White House by requesting approval for detailed planning, or getting the funding to put together a communications plan. I doubt they have really figured it out even for just the scientists at McMurdo Station. I don’t see how they think they’ll do it for the entire nation.

    • michael says:

      “Has anyone told Trump opening the economy will not work until he fixes the testing problem? ”
      Short answer; No.
      Long answer: You can lead a horse’s ass to water, but you can’t make him see his reflection.

      [Welcome to emptywheel. Please use a more differentiated username when you comment next as we have several community members named “Michael” or “Mike.” Thanks. /~Rayne]

  7. harpie says:

    Trump is such a scared little chickenshit.

    Trump is scared of Real Inspector Generals evaluating him and his administration’s work.
    Trump is scared of Real Americans voting in a free and fair election.
    Trump is scared of what we’ll find out by testing everyone for Corona Virus.
    Trump is scared of smart people asking him questions.

    Trump is scared of revealing the results of his physicals, his school grades, his tax returns.

    Trump is just plain TERRIFIED of being evaluated and held to account, because
    Trump KNOWS his whole life story is just one BIG SCAM.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Like Commodus, Trump has been scared his whole life. He survives by being the center of attention. It gives him the high he needs, one after another, like lottery ping pong balls suspended in blasts of air.

      He survives by beating down everyone and by micro-managing – or letting things die on the vine because they are not important enough to merit His attention (like the Bush and Obama disaster preparedness plans). Nothing must require him to read: the gods have already blessed him with perfect knowledge and perfect conduct.

      Mortals being lesser men, everything must come to His Greatness for approval or to be dropped into the memory hole. No independent thinking, no institutional plans or preparedness, which might proceed in his absence. The government needs no one but Him, which is why a third to a half of its executive positions remain unfilled. Lesser mortals may not question Him, which is why Inspectors General and the opposition party are abominations, among the first to be cast into the pit.

      Donald Trump is a deeply sick and incapable man, whom 40% of Americans think will save them from him. What are the 60% to do?

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Donald Trump and Bill Barr seem to be waging a contest to see who can eat the most chocolate Easter eggs – all year round. I’d say it was a tie.

  9. harpie says:

    Cheryl Rofer retweeted this from Walt Shaub the other day:
    10:21 PM · Apr 7, 2020

    Trump’s assault on Inspectors General is late-stage corruption.
    The canary in the coal mine was

    Then, there was […] /2

    Next came […] /3

    Along the way came […] /11

    But Trump wasn’t done. […] /22

    ^^^^ This long, methodical recounting was published as an opinion piece the next day:

    Trump’s unfettered attacks on accountability are a life-and-death crisis for democracy
    The government is failing us, safeguards that took two centuries to build have crumbled, and authoritarianism is eyeing this republic like lunch.
    Walter Shaub // April 8, 2020, 3:03pm

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