Trump fires intelligence watchdog at center of impeachment

President Donald Trump on Friday told Congress he's lost confidence in intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI

April 4 (UPI) — President Donald Trump has notified Congress he intends to fire the intelligence committee inspector general who told lawmakers last year about a whistle-blower complaint that led to the House impeachment inquiry.

The president sent a letter to Congress on Friday saying the firing of Michael Atkinson will take effect in 30 days. The Washington Post and Politico obtained copies of the letter.

“This is to advise that I am exercising my power as president to remove from office the inspector general of the intelligence community, effective 30 days from today,” Trump wrote.

The president said he doesn’t have confidence in Atkinson and plans to nominate his replacement “at a later date.”

“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,” Trump wrote. “That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general.”

Atkinson, in his role as the intelligence community inspector general, notified Congress last year of a whistle-blower report accusing Trump of having an improper telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The whistle-blower accused Trump of dangling military aid and a one-on-one meeting between the two leaders in exchange for Zelensky publicly announcing a corruption investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.

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Trump repeatedly called his subsequent impeachment a hoax and criticized Atkinson for telling Congress of the whistle-blower report.

Michael Horowitz, the chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, offered his support for Atkinson.

“Inspector General Atkinson is known throughout the inspector general community for his integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight. That includes his actions in handling the Ukraine whistle-blower complaint, which the then acting director of national intelligence stated in congressional testimony was done ‘by the book’ and consistent with the law,” he said.

The House voted to impeach Trump on Dec. 18, but the Senate voted to acquit him in February.

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