President Donald Trump announced that he no longer has “the fullest confidence” in the inspector general for the intelligence community and is removing him from office.
The president reportedly fired Michael Atkinson on Friday, informing Congress in a letter about his decision on the intelligence community watchdog who alerted Congress about the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment.
(Source: Fox News)
“This is to advise that I am exercising my power as President to remove from office the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, effective 30 days from today,” the president wrote in a letter to the intelligence committees of both the Senate and House that was obtained by Politico.
“It is extremely important that we promote the economy, efficiency, and the effectiveness of Federal programs and activities. The Inspectors General have a critical role in the achievement of these goals,” Trump continued.
“As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as President, have the power of appointment, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General,” he added. “That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.”
SCOOP: Trump has fired Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community, who opposed then-DNI Maguire’s decision to withhold the whistleblower complaint that sparked the impeachment inquiry.
— Andrew Desiderio (@AndrewDesiderio) April 4, 2020
A replacement for Atkinson “who has my full confidence and who meets the appropriate qualifications” will be nominated “at a later date,” Trump added.
Atkinson, who was nominated by Trump in November 2017 following 16 years at the Justice Department, was informed that he had been fired on Friday evening, according to a congressional source who added that he was placed on administrative leave.
Atkinson clashed with then-acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire back in September on a decision to not forward the whistleblower complaint to the House and Senate intelligence committees. He saw the matter as one of “urgent concern,” however, and informed Congress of the complaint which alleged a quid pro quo effort by Trump during a phone call with the president of Ukraine.
The complaint sparked the Congressional investigation and subsequent impeachment of the president who was then acquitted by the Senate. Back in November, Rep. John Ratcliffe slammed Democrats for not releasing Atkinson’s closed-door whistleblower testimony that would have exonerated Trump.
News of Trump’s firing of Atkinson set off a wave of criticism by Democrats like House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff who called it an act of “retribution.”
The California Democrat who was part of the team leading the impeachment effort slammed the firing in a tweet, calling it “yet another blatant attempt by the President to gut the independence of the Intelligence Community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing.”
“At a time when our country is dealing with a national emergency and needs people in the Intelligence Community to speak truth to power, the President’s dead of night decision puts our country and national security at even greater risk,” Schiff said.
“In the midst of a national emergency, it is unconscionable that the President is once again attempting to undermine the integrity of the intelligence community by firing yet another an intelligence official simply for doing his job,” the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned the “a brazen act against a patriotic public servant.”
“This latest act of reprisal against the Intelligence Community threatens to have a chilling effect against all willing to speak truth to power,” the California Democrat said. “The President must immediately cease his attacks on those who sacrifice to keep America safe, particularly during this time of national emergency.”
“Inspector General Atkinson is known throughout the Inspector General community for his integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight,” Michael Horowitz, the inspector general at the Department of Justice, told the Associated Press.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York blasted the decision on Twitter, calling Atkinson a “patriot.”
Michael Atkinson is a man of integrity who has served our nation for almost two decades. Being fired for having the courage to speak truth to power makes him a patriot. https://t.co/Gl3JtewXL0
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 4, 2020
“President Trump fires people for telling the truth,” he wrote in another tweet, referring to other officials who were part of the impeachment process and have since been removed from office.
Alexander Vindman, then-National Security Council official and witness in the House Democrats’ proceedings, as well as his twin brother, were reassigned out of the NSC. Trump also fired then-US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.
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