President Donald Trump formally notified the Senate and House Intelligence Committees of his intention to fire Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, because he “no longer” has confidence in his abilities.
Atkinson started the impeachment probe into the president’s phone call with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy by informing Congress that something was amiss and resisted White House efforts to name the whistleblower who brought it to his attention.
Trump has a right to fire Atkinson and any other presidential appointee who doesn’t measure up. But firing any IG — especially one who has displeased the president — smacks of politics and not an effort to improve the intelligence community.
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.”
Trump added that he would be submitting a new nominee for the position to the Senate “at a later date.”
The IG community was outraged at the president’s actions.
In an unusual rebuke of a president, Michael Horowitz, the chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, said in a statement: “Inspector General Atkinson is known throughout the Inspector General community for his integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight. That includes his actions in handling the Ukraine whistleblower complaint, which the then Acting Director of National Intelligence stated in congressional testimony was done ‘by the book’ and consistent with the law.”
Democrats are making the ludicrous argument that it’s an “abuse of power” to fire Atkinson.
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.
Trump’s firing of Atkinson is troubling not only because he apparently did nothing wrong and performed his job competently. Rather, he angered Trump personally and was considered “disloyal.” Is personal loyalty to the president now to become the benchmark for service for presidential appointees? Certainly, all presidents are due an appointee’s loyal and dedicated service, but should it come at the expense of performing one’s job and executing the law?
Once the whistleblower formally complained about the Ukraine phone call, Atkinson’s hands were tied. It didn’t matter if the whistleblower was a Democratic “plant” by the deep state. The whistleblower law set a specific, precise series of events in motion that Atkinson and Trump himself were powerless to stop. That’s what the whistleblower law was supposed to do and the events that unfolded were a direct result of that.
Trump is who he is and the American people will make their judgment of him in November. But the pettiness of the president in gaining his revenge on those he sees as having crossed him diminishes both Trump and the office of president.