The president informed Congress of the move in a Friday-evening letter to the House and Senate intelligence committees.
President Donald Trump has fired the intelligence community’s chief watchdog, Michael Atkinson, who was the first to sound the alarm to Congress last September about an “urgent” complaint he’d received from an intelligence official involving Trump’s communications with Ukraine’s president.
Atkinson’s decision set in motion the congressional probe that culminated in Trump’s impeachment and ultimate acquittal in a bruising political and legal drama that consumed Washington for months.
Trump formally notified the Senate and House Intelligence Committees of his intention to fire Atkinson, to take effect 30 days from Friday, according to two congressional officials and a copy of the letter obtained by POLITICO dated April 3.
“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.
Trump said in the letter that he “no longer” has the fullest confidence in Atkinson. “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,” he wrote. “That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called Atkinson’s firing “unconscionable,” and accused the president of an ongoing effort to politicize intelligence.
“In the midst of a national emergency, it is unconscionable that the president is once again attempting to undermine the integrity of the intelligence community by firing yet another intelligence official simply for doing his job,” Warner said in a statement.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) described the firing as “retribution” coming in the “dead of night” and called it “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.”
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