Where Things Stand: Grassley’s Soft Spot

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WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 13: Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) delivers opening remarks before Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar testifies at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on President Donald Trump's... WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 13: Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) delivers opening remarks before Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar testifies at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on President Donald Trump's FY2021 Budget in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on February 13, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images) MORE LESS
April 9, 2020 12:38 p.m.

We’ve known for some time that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has a soft spot for protecting whistleblowers. That affection apparently extends to inspector generals as well.

In a bipartisan letter sent to the White House on Wednesday, Grassley and seven other senators demanded President Trump explain himself over the sudden firing of Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community who handled the whistleblower complaint that sparked an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Trump hasn’t exactly tried to hide his post-acquittal retribution crusade, most notably booting Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman — one of the most crucial witnesses in the House’s impeachment inquiry — and his twin brother from the White House just days after the Senate acquitted Trump. Atkinson has made it publicly clear that he believes his firing was just another act of revenge on the loyalty-obsessed president’s part.

But the manner of Atkinson’s firing was clearly enough to spark some level of bipartisan discomfort. Grassley was joined by two, albeit moderate, Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins (ME) and Mitt Romney (UT) — and five Democrats in sending the letter, demanding Trump explain why congressional intelligence committees weren’t properly notified and given rationale for the ousting ahead of time. The President is suppose to give Congress a 30-day heads up about an inspector general’s firing, but Trump gave no warning and only told the Senate Intelligence Committee after the fact that he’d lost “confidence” in the IG.

While now may not be the most practical time to pick a fight with the White House over the firing of the intelligence community’s top watchdog, the rare show of bipartisan adherence to just one area of order and protocol feels like a reprieve — or just a reminder of simpler times. In the thick of impeachment, you’d never hear me or anyone in the media say that.

Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following:

What The Investigations Team Is Watching

Kate Riga is looking into the battle playing out between Kansas Republican leaders and the governor over Easter Sunday church services. On Wednesday, Kansas GOP revoked Gov. Laura Kelly’s executive order that limits church gatherings to 10 people.

Tierney Sneed and Josh Kovensky are continuing their work looking into the federal government’s seizures of medical supplies.

What The Breaking News Team Is Watching

The Labor Department released a weekly unemployment claims report this morning that indicated that a record-shattering 16.8 million jobs have been lost over the past three weeks as the COVID-19 outbreak engulfs the nation. Amid that disturbing figure, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin predicted on Thursday the Trump administration was “making everything necessary” to make sure American businesses reopen as soon as May. We’ll continue monitoring this administration’s hyper-focus on the economy as the pandemic spreads.

Vice President Mike Pence tried to claim on Wednesday night that Trump handled the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic better than the World Health Organization (WHO), a transparent attempt to shield the President’s incompetent response to the outbreak. This appears to be the administration’s new blame-game narrative.

Today’s Rundown

12:30 p.m. ET: Trump will have lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

2:30 p.m. ET: The President will host a call with mental health experts and advocates.

5:00 p.m. ET: White House coronavirus task force will hold it’s press briefing.

Yesterday’s Most Read Story

Possible Developments In The Treatment Of Critical COVID-19 No. 2 — Josh Marshall

What We Are Reading

Trump Administration Plan To Provide Millions Of Free Face Masks Fizzled — Jonathan Swan and Caitlin Owens

Democrats Have Found A Coronavirus Brightspot. Her Name Is Earnestine. — Sheryl Gay Stolberg

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