WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump has removed the U.S. intelligence community watchdog from office.
Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson informed Congress about the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment earlier this year.
Trump officially notified the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress on Friday that Atkinson’s firing would go into effect in 30 days.
He said in a letter that he “no longer” had “the fullest confidence” in Atkinson. Trump said he would name a replacement for Atkinson “at a later date.”
The move was quickly criticized by top congressional Democrats.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described Atkinson’s firing as “shameful,” calling it “a brazen act against a patriotic public servant who has honorably performed his duty to protect the Constitution and our national security, as required by the law and by his oath.”
“Michael Atkinson is a man of integrity who has served our nation for almost two decades,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. “Being fired for having the courage to speak truth to power makes him a patriot.”
The move was also criticized by the top Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees.
“At a time, when our country is dealing with a national emergency and needs people in the Intelligence Community to speak truth to power, the President’s dead of night decision puts our country and national security at even greater risk,” House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement. “President Trump’s decision to fire Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson is 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.”
Sen. Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement, “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. ... We should all be deeply disturbed by ongoing attempts to politicize the nation’s intelligence agencies.”