Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson said he was fired for doing his job.
Atkinson was the federal official who told Congress about the existence of a whistleblower complaint against Trump. The complaint suggested the president improperly pressured Ukraine to look into his political rivals, which ultimately led to Trump’s impeachment.
Trump removed Atkinson from the post late Friday. Atkinson said his removal was over how he handled that whistleblower complaint.
"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," Atkinson said in a statement. "and from my commitment to continue to do so.”
Trump informed the House and Senate Intelligence Committees late Friday that he would be removing Atkinson after a required 30-day wait. But, he was immediately placed on administrative leave effective immediately.
At a press conference on Saturday, Trump said he thought Atkinson “did a terrible job.”
“He took this terrible, inaccurate whistleblower report and he brought it to Congress,” Trump said of Atkinson.
Atkinson wanted to share the complaint with Congress under a federal whistleblower law. The White House and Justice Department stepped in and blocked the complaint from being filed for days.
Under pressure, Trump provided the complaint to Congress along with a transcript of a July 2019 call with Ukraine's president. Those items are what became factors in the House’s decision to impeach the president for abuse of power. Trump was then acquitted by the Senate.
"As an Inspector General, I 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 when they did blow the whistle in an authorized manner, their identities would be protected as a guard against reprisals," Atkinson said in his statement. "Inspectors General are able to fulfill their critical watchdog functions because, by law, they are supposed to be independent of both the Executive agencies they oversee and of Congress.”
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