Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general, fired by President Trump on Friday, says he thinks that the president dismissed him because of doing his duty impartially.
“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 said in a press statement on Sunday night that was obtained by several news outlets and shared on social media.
Trump fired the inspector general in a memo on Friday, explaining that he “no longer” has confidence in Atkinson’s ability to serve as a watchdog for the intelligence community. Atkinson had been the one to alert the Congress of an “urgent” whistleblower complaint he received from an intelligence official concerned about Trump’s conversations with Ukrainian President Zelensky.
The president defended his decision to fire Atkinson on Saturday, calling him a “disgrace” to inspectors general.
The resulting controversy famously led to Trump’s impeachment by the House but acquitted in the Senate, even though one Republican senator, Mitt Romney, voted in favor of removing the president from office.
“This is to advise that I am exercising my power as President to remove from office the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, effective 30 days from today,” Trump wrote in a letter to leading members of the House and Senate Intelligence committees on Friday.
“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 added. “That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.”
Atkinson has served in this position since May of 2018.