President Trump has reportedly fired Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the U.S. intelligence community who alerted Congress to concerns about a Trump phone call with the president of Ukraine – a matter that led to the president’s impeachment last year.
“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,” the president wrote.
Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, leaves the Capitol after closed doors interview about the whistleblower complaint that exposed a July phone call the president had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump pressed for an investigation of Democratic political rival Joe Biden and his family, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. (Associated Press)
“It is extremely important that we promote the economy, efficiency, and the effectiveness of Federal programs and activities. The Inspectors General have a critical role in the achievement of these goals,” the president continued. 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. That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.”
The president added he would nominate a replacement “who has my full confidence and who meets the appropriate qualifications,” at a later time.
In January, Fox News reported that Atkinson was being investigated by Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee for his handling of the Ukraine matter, which began with a complaint filed by an unidentified “whistleblower.”
Last August, Atkinson received a complaint from someone who raised concerns about Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump sought a Ukraine-led investigation into the past business dealings in the country of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
Democrats argued that the president had tied the investigation request to the withholding of U.S. military aid from Ukraine, in what they described as a “quid pro quo” arrangement. But Trump denied any wrongdoing in connection with Ukraine.
The House ultimately impeached Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — but the Senate acquitted Trump of the charges in February.
In a statement, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, one of the Democrats’ leaders of the impeachment efffort, called the firing of Atkinson an act of “retribution” by President Trump.
Schiff called Friday’s action “yet another blatant attempt by the President to gut the independence of the Intelligence Community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing,” according to Politico.
“At a time when our country is dealing with a national emergency and needs people in the Intelligence Community to speak truth to power, the President’s dead of night decision puts our country and national security at even greater risk,” Schiff added.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this story.