Inspector General Michael Atkinson believes Trump fired him over the Ukraine scandal

Peter Weber

President Trump informed Congress late Friday that he intends to fire Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson after a mandatory 30-day period but also said he was placing Atkinson on immediate administrative leave. "Inspectors general are traditionally removed for 'cause' — usually involving misconduct," The Washington Post notes. "In Atkinson's case, there was no apparent misconduct. Rather, Trump said in a letter to Congress on Friday night that it was 'no longer the case' that Atkinson had his 'fullest confidence.'"

In a press conference Saturday, Trump strongly suggested he was sacking Atkinson for informing Congress about the Ukraine whistleblower complaint that, once largely confirmed, led to Trump's impeachment. "I thought he did a terrible job, absolutely terrible," Trump told reporters. "He took this terrible, inaccurate whistleblower report and he brought it to Congress." Atkinson released an unusual statement Sunday night defending his handling of the Ukraine matter and saying "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."

Democrats and some Senate Republicans criticized the late-night sacking, and Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general and chairman of a council of federal inspectors general, said Atkinson was known by his peers for "integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight," including "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."

Trump also announced Friday night he intends to nominate a White House lawyer, Brian Miller, as special inspector general for a $500 billion coronavirus relief fund and replace Glenn Fine, the well-regarded acting inspector general of the Defense Department, with Jason Abend, a senior policy adviser at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Horowitz had tapped Fine as inspector general of the entire $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue package.

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