Grassley calls Trump administration's oversight claims 'nonsense'

magnifying numbers

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is pushing back against a Justice Department opinion that essentially insulates the Trump administration from document requests and other efforts at oversight from Democratic members of Congress.

A  May 1 opinion signed by Curtis Gannon, acting assistant attorney general and head of the Office of Legal Counsel, asserted that the administration had an obligation to comply with requests from committee chairs in the House and Senate, but not "individual members, including ranking minority members."

Grassley sharply rebuked this view in a letter to President Donald Trump that was released publicly on June 9.

The OLC opinion "falsely asserts that only requests from committees or their chairs are 'constitutionally authorized, 'and relegates requests from non-Chairmen to the position of 'non-oversight' inquiries -- whatever that means," Grassley wrote. "This is nonsense," he added.

Grassley complained that OLC demonstrated "a shocking lack of professionalism and objectivity" in arguing that there is a constitutional basis for ignoring oversight requests, and told Trump, "you are being ill-served and ill-advised."

The 7-page letter rebuts the notion that OLC can make arguments on behalf of the legislative branch and offers a clinic on how minority party members are included both in the compulsory production of documents and witnesses through the subpoena process and voluntary requests for information from the administration.

"I know from experience that a partisan response to oversight only discourages bipartisanship, decreases transparency, and diminishes the crucial role of the American people's elected representatives," Grassley wrote. "Oversight brings transparency, and transparency brings accountability."

In addition to Grassley's missive, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee also objected to the opinion. In a letter to acting GSA Administrator Timothy Horne, a group of lawmakers led by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the committee, called the OLC opinion "flawed in many ways," but also noted that "even taking it at face value, GSA must comply with requests submitted under the statutory Seven Member Rule."

That authority, noted Cummings, is enshrined in a 1928 law which requires agencies to submit information on any matter under the Oversight committee's jurisdiction provided that seven members of the committee submit the request.

Cummings' letter warned, "compliance with federal law is not an optional exercise that may be overridden by a new Trump Administration policy."

Cummings and his Democratic colleagues are seeking correspondence and documents between GSA and Trump's Washington, D.C. hotel which is housed in a government-owned building. Specifically, Cummings wants more information on revenues and expenses generated by the hotel, correspondence about funds generated by the hotel from foreign sources.  

Additionally, a lawsuit filed against President Trump on June 12 could force the release of such information through the discovery process.   The attorneys general for the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland claim the president "has violated -- and will continue to violate -- the ... Emoluments Clause" by refusing to divest from his business holdings.  Maryland Attorney General Brian Froch told the Washington Post that "we’ll need to see [Trump's] financial records, his taxes that he has refused to release." 

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


  • Contracting
    8 prototypes of the border walls as tweeted by CBP San Diego

    DHS contractors face protests – on the streets

    Tech companies are facing protests internally from workers and externally from activists about doing for government amid controversial policies like "zero tolerance" for illegal immigration.

  • Workforce
    By Mark Van Scyoc Royalty-free stock photo ID: 285175268

    At OPM, Weichert pushes direct hire, pay agent changes

    Margaret Weichert, now acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, is clearing agencies to make direct hires in IT, cyber and other tech fields and is changing pay for specialized occupations.

  • Cloud
    Shutterstock ID ID: 222190471 By wk1003mike

    IBM protests JEDI cloud deal

    As the deadline to submit bids on the Pentagon's $10 billion, 10-year warfighter cloud deal draws near, IBM announced a legal protest.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.