Monday, 30th October 2017

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President to remove intelligence watchdog

Atkinson’s fate was sealed after the trial on impeachment charges ended

By Maggie Haberman, Charlie Savage and Nicholas Fandos/New York Times News Service in New York
  • Published 5.04.20, 1:56 AM
  • Updated 5.04.20, 1:56 AM
  • a min read
President Donald Trump File picture

President Trump will fire the intelligence community inspector general whose insistence on telling lawmakers about a whistle-blower complaint about his dealings with Ukraine triggered impeachment proceedings last autumn, the President told lawmakers in a letter late on Friday.

The move came as Trump announced his intent to name a White House aide as the independent watchdog for $500 billion in corporate pandemic aid and notified Congress of other nominees to inspector general positions, including one that would effectively oust the newly named chairman of a panel to oversee how the government spends $2 trillion in coronavirus relief.

The slew of late-night announcements, coming as the world’s attention is gripped by the coronavirus pandemic, raised the spectre of a White House power play over the community of inspectors general, independent officials whose mission is to root out waste, fraud and abuse within the government.

Trump is ousting the intelligence community inspector general, Michael K. Atkinson, because he lost confidence in him, the President wrote in a letter to leaders of the two congressional intelligence committees. He gave no further explanation.

“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,” Trump wrote. “That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general.”

The President has long discussed his desire to fire several inspectors general, and he has been talking to aides about his desire to oust Atkinson since last autumn, tarring the inspector general as disloyal because he sought to share information with Congress about the President’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into delivering him personal political benefits.

Atkinson’s fate was sealed after the trial on impeachment charges ended, said one Trump administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a delicate matter.

Under the law that created the position of the inspector general for the intelligence community, the President can only remove that person a month after notifying the intelligence communities of his intentions and rationale.

But rather than being permitted to serve for another month, the White House told Atkinson late on Friday that he was being placed on administrative leave.