Politics

Grassley to Justice Department: No Answers, No Nominee

Judiciary chairman wants responses to at least 15 letters first

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley is holding up the nomination of the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley is tired of his requests to the Justice Department going unanswered — and he’s fighting back yet again.

The Iowa Republican announced Thursday that the committee won’t advance the nomination of Stephen Boyd to be assistant attorney general for legislative affairs until he gets responses to at least 15 letters, some due more than six months ago.

Grassley, whose other frustrations led him to delay nominees this year and take to Twitter to get information from the Trump administration, spoke emphatically at a committee business meeting.

“The department has refused — now can you believe this — the department has refused to make Mr. Boyd available for even a conversation with the committee’s oversight and investigative staff,” Grassley said. “The department needs to improve its communication with committee members and staff, it needs to be more serious about answering the mail and the questions from Congress.”

Grassley, who has been in office since 1981, highlighted that it’s the constitutional duty of senators to provide oversight and noted the Obama administration didn’t have a stellar record of responding to letters either. He even brought up the issue with Attorney General Jeff Sessions ahead of his confirmation.

“That’s not a Republican or Democrat thing, that’s just, I want my letters answered,” the chairman said. “With a new administration, I want to do something about it.”

Grassley found bipartisan consensus. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee’s top Democrat, said: “This side admires your true grit and we support you fully.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., aired his frustrations about even bipartisan letters written with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

“I think, at this stage, my record with the Department of Justice and the FBI on getting letters answered is exactly zero,” Whitehouse said. “And that includes letters that Sen. Graham [and I] have written jointly to the department or the FBI in the context of our subcommittee.”

In February, the apparent disconnect between the Trump administration and lawmakers led Grassley to make a plea on Twitter — a medium both he and President Donald Trump use frequently.

“Whoever monitors twitter at WH for Pres Trump get on subject of my immediate tweet and stop overclassification & start declassifying,” Grassley tweeted.

Another Grassley missive on behalf of his wife: “Whoever monitors twitter at WH for businessman president Trump ‘when is WH going to be opened for public tours?’ Mrs G wants to know.”

In March, Grassley told reporters he was delaying committee action on the nomination of the Justice Department’s No. 2 official, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, until the committee was briefed by then-FBI Director James B. Comey on the bureau’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

In April, Grassley, at the last minute, delayed for two weeks the confirmation hearing for Makan Delrahim, Trump’s nominee to lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division, because the committee had not yet received some ethics paperwork.

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