President Donald Trump on April 4 defended his decision to fire Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, telling reporters at the White House that Atkinson mishandled the whistleblower complaint that led to the first partisan impeachment of a president and his subsequent acquittal.
“Hes a total disgrace,” Trump said. “Thats my decision. I have the absolute right.”
The president noted that the anonymous whistleblowers complaint didnt have to be rushed and that Atkinson himself determined that there were indications of political bias by the complainant.
In a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee on April 3, Trump said that he would remove Atkinson from office “effective 30 days from today.”
“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.”
“That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general,” Trump said in the letter.
Atkinson played a central role in the genesis of the impeachment probe against Trump. He vetted the whistleblower complaint and determined that it should be forwarded to Congress as an urgent concern. The complaint centered on Trumps call last July with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Many questions remain about some controversial aspects of Atkinsons involvement. Shortly after the submission of the Ukraine complaint, the intelligence community inspector generals (ICIG) office altered its whistleblower complaint form to remove instructions that directed complainants that the office would only review firsthand information. The impeachment whistleblowers complaint consisted almost entirely of secondhand claims.
Atkinson issued a lengthy explanation of why the form was altered, explaining that the firsthand requirement was removed due to scrutiny from the media. He explained that the ICIG does not actually have a requirement for firsthand information and that the form was adjusted accordingly.
The whistleblower also falsely claimed on the complaint form that he or she hadnt spoken to Congress about the matter.
Atkinson testified before the House Intelligence Committee during its impeachment inquiry. His testimony is the only one that remains classified and was never released by the Democrat-controlled committee. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) later revealed that his office had in fact communicated with the whistleblower prior to the submission of the complaint.
Schiff, the leader of the impeachment inquiry and trial, defended Atkinson on Twitter.
“Actually, he abided by the law and the complaint was spot on,” Schiff wrote on Twitter. “Someone who follows the law and their conscience is no disgrace.”
Republicans have long suggested that Atkinsons unreleased testimony hurt the Democrats case for impeachment.
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