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Intel Official Disappointed by Ouster  04/06 06:01

   The ousted inspector general of the intelligence community says he is 
"disappointed and saddened" that President Donald Trump fired him, but he also 
encouraged other inspectors general to continue to speak out when they are 
aware of wrongdoing. 

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The ousted inspector general of the intelligence 
community says he is "disappointed and saddened" that President Donald Trump 
fired him, but he also encouraged other inspectors general to continue to speak 
out when they are aware of wrongdoing. 

   Trump notified Congress late Friday evening that he intended to fire Michael 
Atkinson, a pivotal figure in his impeachment last year, because he had lost 
confidence in him. On Saturday, Trump made it clear that the move had been 
retaliatory, telling reporters that Atkinson was a "disgrace" and had done "a 
terrible job" because he had provided an anonymous whistleblower complaint to 
Congress --- a move that was required by law. 

   Atkinson said in the statement, sent to reporters late Sunday, that "it is 
hard not to think that the president's loss of confidence in me derives from my 
having faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and 
impartial inspector general, and from my commitment to continue to do so." 

   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 Democrats. The inspector general had deemed it urgent 
and credible, meaning that he was required to share it with the House and 
Senate intelligence committees. But the acting director of national 
intelligence at the time, Joseph Maguire, overruled him for several weeks. 

   After a firestorm sparked by media reports of the complaint, it was turned 
over and made public in September, and a congressional inquiry into the matter 
led to Trump's impeachment by the House in December. The GOP-led Senate 
acquitted Trump in February. 

   Atkinson said in the email that he was legally obligated to "ensure that 
whistleblowers had an effective and authorized means to disclose urgent matters 
involving classified information to the congressional intelligence committees," 
and that such whistleblowers were protected against reprisal. Trump repeatedly 
called for the whistleblower's name to be revealed. 

   Atkinson also directed his message to other inspectors general, saying that 
he knows they will "continue to do everything in their power" to continue to 
protect whistleblowers. 

   "Please do not allow recent events to silence your voices," Atkinson wrote. 

   Atkinson's statement was sent to reporters by email on Sunday evening and 
was copied to Alan Boehm, the executive director of the Council of the 
Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. Boehm confirmed the 
authenticity of the letter in a follow-up email exchange with The Associated 
Press.

   On Saturday, Trump questioned why Atkinson didn't speak to him about the 
complaint, though the inspector general's role is to provide independent 
oversight.

   "Never came in to see me, never requested to see me," Trump said. He added: 
"That man is a disgrace to IGs."

   Atkinson's removal is part of a larger shakeup of the intelligence community 
under Trump, who has long been skeptical of intelligence officials and 
information. Atkinson is at least the seventh intelligence official to be 
fired, ousted or moved aside since last summer. 

   His ouster came under immediate fire from Democrats and a handful of 
Republicans.

   Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who leads the Finance Committee, 
said that Congress has been "crystal clear" that written reasons must be given 
when inspectors general are removed for a lack of confidence. 

   "More details are needed from the administration," Grassley said. 

   Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a GOP member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, 
said she didn't find Trump's reasoning in his Friday letter to be persuasive, 
and said Atkinson's removal "was not warranted." Senate Intelligence Committee 
Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said an inspector general "must be allowed to 
conduct his or her work independent of internal or external pressure." 

   Still, there is little Congress can do in response, especially as lawmakers 
are scattered across the country and out of session due to the coronavirus 
pandemic. 

   Trump said in the letter to the intelligence committees that Atkinson would 
be removed from office in 30 days, the required amount of time he must wait 
after informing Congress. He wrote that he would nominate an individual "who 
has my full confidence" at a later date.

   According to two congressional officials, Atkinson has been placed on 
administrative leave, meaning he will not serve out the 30 days. One of the 
officials said Atkinson was only informed of his removal on Friday night. The 
officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Atkinson's administrative 
leave had not been announced.


(KR)

 
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