A major move was made by President Donald Trump late on Friday. Shockingly, Trump canned the intelligence community’s chief watchdog, Inspector General Michael Atkinson.
Trump nominated Atkinson for his role in 2017 after he had served 16 years at the Justice Department. One of the focuses of his job was to probe activities falling under the purview of the Director of National Intelligence and reviewing whistleblower complaints from within the intelligence community.
Atkinson came out against then-acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire’s decision to withhold the whistleblower complaint from Congress, pitting him against the White House’s desire to keep the complaint out of the hands of congressional investigators.
“As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as President, have the power of appointment … it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general.” Trump stated, “That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.” While Trump added that he would be submitting a new nominee for the position to the Senate “at a later date.”
Atkinson, who was the first to sound the alarm to Congress last September about an “urgent” complaint he’d received from an intelligence official involving Trump’s communications with Ukraine’s president.
Atkinson’s decision set in motion the congressional probe that culminated in Trump’s impeachment, and ultimate acquittal in January, largely along party lines.
Trump formally notified the Senate and House Intelligence Committees of his intention to fire Atkinson, to take effect 30 days from Friday, according to two congressional officials and a copy of the letter obtained by POLITICO dated April 3.
Rival Democrats quickly pounced on the president. Vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Mark Warner (D-VA) took issue with that decision telling, “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 intelligence official simply for doing his job.”
In addition Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said “President Trump’s decision to fire Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson is 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.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Atkinson’s ouster was evidence that Trump “fires people for telling the truth.” This no doubt has Trump’s foes in the resistance seeing red.