Intel Official Disappointed by Ouster 04/06 06:01
The ousted inspector general of the intelligence community says he is
"disappointed and saddened" that President Donald Trump fired him, but he also
encouraged other inspectors general to continue to speak out when they are
aware of wrongdoing.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The ousted inspector general of the intelligence
community says he is "disappointed and saddened" that President Donald Trump
fired him, but he also encouraged other inspectors general to continue to speak
out when they are aware of wrongdoing.
Trump notified Congress late Friday evening that he intended to fire Michael
Atkinson, a pivotal figure in his impeachment last year, because he had lost
confidence in him. On Saturday, Trump made it clear that the move had been
retaliatory, telling reporters that Atkinson was a "disgrace" and had done "a
terrible job" because he had provided an anonymous whistleblower complaint to
Congress --- a move that was required by law.
Atkinson said in the statement, sent to reporters late Sunday, that "it is
hard not to think that the president's loss of confidence in me derives from my
having faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and
impartial inspector general, and from my commitment to continue to do so."
Atkinson was required by law to notify Congress of the complaint, which was
written by an anonymous intelligence official and detailed Trump's pressure on
Ukraine to investigate Democrats. The inspector general had deemed it urgent
and credible, meaning that he was required to share it with the House and
Senate intelligence committees. But the acting director of national
intelligence at the time, Joseph Maguire, overruled him for several weeks.
After a firestorm sparked by media reports of the complaint, it was turned
over and made public in September, and a congressional inquiry into the matter
led to Trump's impeachment by the House in December. The GOP-led Senate
acquitted Trump in February.
Atkinson said in the email that he was legally obligated to "ensure that
whistleblowers had an effective and authorized means to disclose urgent matters
involving classified information to the congressional intelligence committees,"
and that such whistleblowers were protected against reprisal. Trump repeatedly
called for the whistleblower's name to be revealed.
Atkinson also directed his message to other inspectors general, saying that
he knows they will "continue to do everything in their power" to continue to
"Please do not allow recent events to silence your voices," Atkinson wrote.
Atkinson's statement was sent to reporters by email on Sunday evening and
was copied to Alan Boehm, the executive director of the Council of the
Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. Boehm confirmed the
authenticity of the letter in a follow-up email exchange with The Associated
On Saturday, Trump questioned why Atkinson didn't speak to him about the
complaint, though the inspector general's role is to provide independent
"Never came in to see me, never requested to see me," Trump said. He added:
"That man is a disgrace to IGs."
Atkinson's removal is part of a larger shakeup of the intelligence community
under Trump, who has long been skeptical of intelligence officials and
information. Atkinson is at least the seventh intelligence official to be
fired, ousted or moved aside since last summer.
His ouster came under immediate fire from Democrats and a handful of
Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who leads the Finance Committee,
said that Congress has been "crystal clear" that written reasons must be given
when inspectors general are removed for a lack of confidence.
"More details are needed from the administration," Grassley said.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a GOP member of the Senate Intelligence Committee,
said she didn't find Trump's reasoning in his Friday letter to be persuasive,
and said Atkinson's removal "was not warranted." Senate Intelligence Committee
Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said an inspector general "must be allowed to
conduct his or her work independent of internal or external pressure."
Still, there is little Congress can do in response, especially as lawmakers
are scattered across the country and out of session due to the coronavirus
Trump said in the letter to the intelligence committees that Atkinson would
be removed from office in 30 days, the required amount of time he must wait
after informing Congress. He wrote that he would nominate an individual "who
has my full confidence" at a later date.
According to two congressional officials, Atkinson has been placed on
administrative leave, meaning he will not serve out the 30 days. 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 had not been announced.