Nobody likes to be told how to behave in their own house. And they really don’t like outsiders telling them how to do their job.
So you’d imagine Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) did not take kindly to a letter from the Justice Department reprimanding him about how he should conduct his committee hearings.
Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik, the day after a March 4 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about FBI whistleblowers, sent Grassley, the panel chairman, a terse letter telling the senator exactly how to request executive branch witnesses and in what order they should appear.
He accused Grassley of not giving the agency enough advance notice to prep. He informed Grassley, “respectfully,” that the agency would “adhere firmly to the requirement of a formal written invitation at least two weeks in advance…”
He also sought to school Grassley, a senator for 34 years, on the “established hearing protocol” that executive branch witnesses should be on the first panel, second only to members of Congress. At the hearing, an FBI deputy director appeared on a second panel after whistleblowers and advocates.
“We respectfully anticipate that you will continue this protocol in conducting future hearings…,” Kadzik wrote.
Grassley’s response was basically a formal variation of: “Go fly a kite.”
He told Kadzik that committee staff had been in touch with his department nearly a month in advance about the hearing, and had actually waited on them to find a witness to send a formal invitation. The “insinuation” that the agency didn’t know about the hearing “in a timely fashion is simply uninformed or disingenuous,” Grassley wrote.
And that whole thing about the order of witnesses? Grassley said his judgment as chairman dictates who the committee hears from first, and would remain that way. He also sharply criticized Justice staff for suggesting it wasted the FBI witness’s time to sit through the first panel’s testimony.
We asked Justice if it had any further comment on this matter, but did not get a response.
Now, in Justice’s defense, a Congressional Research Service report we found on arranging witnesses does say that the “privilege” of testifying first is often given to “high-ranking executive branch officials.”
But, the order is ultimately up to the committee. And something tells us Justice didn’t win itself any preferential treatment …