WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Saturday defended his decision to fire the intelligence committee watchdog who handled a whistleblower’s complaint about his interactions with Ukraine, arguing that the official did “a terrible job.”
The president notified Congress on Friday that he fired Michael Atkinson, the inspector general who informed Congress about an anonymous whistleblower complaint that described Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democrat Joe Biden. The complaint led to Trump’s impeachment and ultimately his acquittal in the Senate.
“He took a fake report and he brought it to Congress with an emergency,” the president said, describing Atkinson as a “disgrace.”
Democrats and even some Republicans have acknowledged that, after reading the transcript of the president’s phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, the conversation was “inappropriate” or “wrong.” But most Republicans argued the call did not rise to the level of removing the president from office.
Some lawmakers called the decision to fire Atkinson a retaliation against a career government servant who was doing his job.
“This is another example of retaliation against a U.S. official who faithfully executed the duties of his office,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
Feinstein said Atkinson “demonstrated courage and integrity when he notified Congress last September about the president’s efforts to press Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 presidential election.”
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she “did not find his rationale for removing Inspector General Atkinson to be persuasive.”
“While I recognize that the president has the authority to appoint and remove Inspectors General, I believe Inspector General Atkinson served the Intelligence Community and the American people well, and his removal was not warranted,” she said.
Contributing: Kevin Johnson