In a letter to the House and Senate intelligence committees Friday, President Trump announced that he's firing intelligence community inspector general Michael Atkins, who alerted Congress to the whistleblower complaint concerning Trump's July 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, triggering the president's impeachment earlier this year.
In the letter, the president wrote that he is dismissing Atkinson because he no longer has "the fullest confidence" in the inspector general. But the intelligence watchdog isn't the only official involved in Trump's impeachment to be punished by the president since his February acquittal. National Security Council member Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified during the House impeachment hearings that he was "concerned" by the Trump-Zelensky phone call, and ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who testified that the Trump administration was pursuing a quid pro quo with Ukraine, were both removed from their positions just two days after the president's acquittal.
Atkinson received the whistleblower complaint last August. As intelligence community inspector general, he had the discretion to determine whether or not the complaint met the standard of presenting an "urgent concern," and should therefore be shared with Congress. Atkinson, who has been placed on administrative leave and will officially exit his inspector general role in 30 days, found that the complaint met the "urgent concern" standard, and testified before the House Intelligence Committee. A CNN profile last year described Atkinson as being a "career non-partisan" who was appointed inspector general in 2018 following a 16-year career in the Justice Department.
Trump’s dead of night decision to fire ICIG Michael Atkinson is another blatant attempt to gut the independence of the Intelligence Community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing.— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) April 4, 2020
It puts our country and national security at even greater risk. pic.twitter.com/Pnm7chdIkl
Democrats have been criticizing the president for Atkinson's firing. Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff wrote in a statement that the "dead of night" ouster was "another blatant attempt by the President to gut the independence of the Intelligence Community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing."
"This retribution against a distinguished public servant for doing his job and informing Congress of an urgent and credible whistleblower complaint is a direct affront to the entire inspector general system," said Schiff.
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