Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has garnered a new ally in his quest to get answers to questions he and other Senate Judiciary Committee members have asked the Justice Department over the past few years.
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) joined his fellow panel Republican on the Senate floor yesterday to criticize DOJ’s handling of committee inquiries — including his own questions.
“I voted for Attorney General [Eric] Holder, and we had several conversations about being forthcoming in responding to our requests for information,” Kyl said on the Senate floor. “I thought at the time he would be able to work with us and provide those kinds of answers and support. Yet I have been disappointed, as Senator Grassley has been.”
Last month, Grassley got the help of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in his demand for responses to nearly 20 inquiries that he has made since 2006. Leahy and Grassley wrote a letter to Holder asking the Attorney General to respond to the Iowa senator’s many inquiries, including ones on the FBI and the abrupt firing of AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin.
Walpin was dismissed in June, two months after then-Eastern District of California acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown filed a complaint against him. The former AmeriCorps inspector general has been cleared of the complaint and is asking to be reinstated, The Sacramento Bee reported today.
Grassley said on the Senate floor yesterday that he received a DOJ response last Friday to questions he asked Holder in June. But he said it was “totally inadequate.”
“Instead of answering the 24 questions, the Department responded with a five-paragraph recitation of publicly available facts and information,” Grassley said. “The Department also said it would respond under separate cover to the document requests. I appreciate the Department’s comments that it intends to respond to my requests, but I am very concerned this is more of the same problem Chairman Leahy and I were trying to get at with our letter just 2 weeks ago.”
He added: “This is a prime example of what is wrong with the inadequate responses to all our questions. They avoid the question and filibuster with public facts.”
The Iowa senator also renewed his threat to hold up the few DOJ nominees who haven’t been confirmed yet, if he doesn’t get satisfactory responses.
“This culture of not answering questions timely, in an evasive manner, and punting document requests to future separate cover letters is unacceptable,” Grassley said on the Senate floor. “We have a constitutional duty to oversee the bureaucracy, and the executive branch is thumbing its nose at the Congress.”
A DOJ spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Holder is slated to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee at a Justice Department oversight hearing Nov. 18.
This post has been updated from an earlier version.