US official who handled “disappointed” whistleblower complaint after Trump fired him – National

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Fallen inspector general of the intelligence community says he is “disappointed and saddened” that US President Donald Trump fired him, but he also encouraged other inspectors general to continue to speak out when they learn of ” wrongdoing.

On Friday evening, Trump 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.

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Atkinson said in the statement, which was sent to journalists 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. ”

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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.










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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.

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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.

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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.










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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.

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His ouster was immediately criticized by Democrats and a handful of Republicans.

Senator Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who chairs the finance committee, said Congress has been “very clear” that written reasons must be given when inspectors general are dismissed for lack of confidence.

“More details are needed from the administration,” said Grassley.

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Maine Senator Susan Collins, GOP member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she did not find Trump’s reasoning in his Friday letter convincing, and said that the dismissal of Atkinson ” was not justified “. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr, R-N.C., Said an inspector general “must be allowed to carry out his work regardless of internal or external pressures.”










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However, there is not much that Congress can do about it, especially since lawmakers are scattered across the country and out of session due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump has said in the letter to the intelligence committees that Atkinson will be removed from office in 30 days, the required time he must wait after informing Congress. He wrote that he would name someone “who has my complete confidence” at a later date.

Two congressional officials say Atkinson has been placed on administrative leave, which means he will not be serving 30 days. One of the officials said that Atkinson was not informed of his eviction until Friday evening. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Atkinson’s administrative leave had not been announced.

© 2020 The Canadian Press



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