On Friday evening, the American president informed Congress that he intended to fire Michael Atkinson, a pivotal figure in his dismissal last year, because he had lost self-confidence. Trump made it clear on Saturday that the decision was made in retaliation, telling reporters that Atkinson was “a shame” and had done “a terrible job” because he had made an anonymous complaint to Congress – a decision required by law.
Atkinson said in the statement, sent to reporters on Sunday evening, that “it is hard not to think that the president’s loss of confidence in me stems from the fact that I have faithfully fulfilled my legal obligations as an inspector general. independent and impartial, and 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 the Democrats. The Inspector General deemed it urgent and credible, which meant that he had to share it with the intelligence committees of the House and the Senate. But the acting director of national intelligence at the time, Joseph Maguire, knocked him down for several weeks.
After a firestorm triggered by media reports on the complaint, it was returned and made public in September, and a Congressional investigation into the matter led to the House’s removal from office in December. The GOP-led Senate acquitted Trump in February.
Atkinson said in the email that he has a legal obligation to “ensure that whistleblowers have an effective and authorized means of disclosing urgent matters involving classified information to Congressional intelligence committees”, and that these whistleblowers were protected from reprisals. Trump has repeatedly asked for the name of the informant.
Atkinson also sent his message to other inspectors general, saying that he knew they “would continue to do everything in their power” to continue protecting whistleblowers.
“Please don’t let recent events silence your voices,” wrote Atkinson.
On Sunday evening, Atkinson’s statement was sent to journalists by email and was copied to Alan Boehm, executive director of the Board of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. Boehm confirmed the authenticity of the letter in a follow-up email exchange with the Associated Press.
Trump asked on Saturday why Atkinson hadn’t told him about the complaint, although the role of the Inspector General is to provide independent oversight.
“I never came to see myself, I never asked to see myself,” said Trump. He added: “This man is a disgrace to GIs. “
The dismissal of Atkinson is part of a larger shake-up of the intelligence community under Trump, who has long been skeptical of intelligence and information officials. Atkinson is at least the seventh intelligence official to be sacked, ousted or sacked since last summer.