Government

Sen. Chuck Grassley wants to limit political appointees as acting inspectors general

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, arrives for a Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, March 20, 2020
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, arrives for a Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, March 20, 2020, to work on sweeping economic rescue plan amid the pandemic crisis and nationwide shutdown. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Sen. Chuck Grassley is calling on Donald Trump to follow the letter of the law requiring the president to give Congress a 30-day written notice before removing an inspector general.

A longtime advocate for whistleblowers and inspectors general, the Iowa Republican is asking for a detailed explanation from Trump of his plan to terminate Inspector General Steve Linick, who reportedly was investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s use of his staff for personal errands.

“I think that I do have a question about the president following the spirit of the law,” Grassley said Wednesday, but “that’s more of a process question” because the Constitution is clear on the president’s power to hire and fire.

The 30-day notice is a protection Congress provided to inspectors general, who report to both the president and Congress, to “guard them from unwarranted political attacks from all sides, including from officials that they are duty-bound to critique.”

Grassley said he’s working with a Democratic colleague to restrict the naming of political appointees from within a department to serve as its inspector general.

“I think it’s going to discourage investigations and discourage whistle-blowing” if a political appointee would have access to all investigations and whistleblower reports, Grassley said.

An administrator who oversees tens of thousands of employees doesn’t know everything that’s going “so you ought to honor whistleblowers and at least listen to them. Once in a while you have a crank, but most of the time, it’s very important information.”

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Speaking of whistleblowers and accountability, Grassley recognized the University of Iowa Daily Iowan newspaper as “the cream of the crop” for being named the Best All-Around Daily Student Newspaper by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Earlier this year, the student-run paper was recognized as 2020 Newspaper of the Year by the Iowa Newspaper Association.

“Journalists serve as watchdogs for accountability,” Grassley said in floor remarks. “They inform and investigate issues important to their readers, from human interest to the public interest, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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