Trump defends firing Inspector General Michael Atkinson

Cheryl Sanders
April 5, 2020

The news comes as the White House deals with a coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than 290,947 people in the USA and killed more than 7,844, according to Worldometer.

Trump withdrew Mr. Ratcliffe's name from consideration shortly after he was nominated, but then re-nominated him again in February.

He did not elaborate, except to say that it was "extremely important that we promote the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of federal programs and activities" and Inspectors-General were critical in those goals.

The whistleblower complaint centered on Trump's efforts last summer to pressure the Ukrainian government to undertake investigations of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter, moves that would undermine a likely rival to Trump in his re-election bid.

Atkinson received the whistleblower complaint that eventually snowballed into Trump's impeachment investigation.

"While we can not get into the substance", said Schiff in a statement at the time, "we explored with the IG through documents and testimony the reasons why he found the whistleblower complaint to both urgent and credible".

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said, "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. President Trump is taking these actions to protect himself - but in the process, he risks making the entire country less safe".

Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives in a partisan vote, in which almost all Democrats voted to indict the president.

Since being acquitted of impeachment charges, Trump has also fired former Ambassador Gordon Sondland and reassigned Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, both of whom testified against the president during the hearings.

"President Trump is using a global pandemic as cover to exact political revenge against the Intelligence Community Inspector General who revealed his misconduct".

One of the officials said Atkinson was only informed of his removal on Friday night.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Atkinson's administrative leave has not been announced.

Atkinson's removal is the latest in a string of retaliatory firings by Trump related to his impeachment. The top Democrat on the Senate intelligence panel, Virginia Sen.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, senior Democrats and other inspectors general defended Atkinson while others in Washington questioned the timing of Trump's decision.

"We should all be deeply disturbed by ongoing attempts to politicize the nation's intelligence agencies", Warner said.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement that 'President Trump fires people for telling the truth'.

According to information sent to Newsweek by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Thomas Monheim will become the acting Intelligence Community Inspector General.

Monheim is now the general counsel of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

Atkinson's firing thrusts the president's impeachment back into the spotlight as his administration deals with the deadly spread of the coronavirus.

He has weighed for months removing Atkinson, whom he picked for the job in late 2017, but has been periodically talked out of it.

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