Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Inspector General Michael Atkinson arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., October 4, 2019. (Photo: Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

'Pure Retaliation, Retribution, and Reprisal': Trump Fires Inspector General Who Sounded Alarm About Ukraine Whistleblower Complaint

"While the world is rightly distracted by COVID-19, we see leaders around the world with authoritarian tendencies subverting democracy. U.S. is no different."

Julia Conley

Democratic lawmakers and government watchdogs on Saturday condemned President Donald Trump's abrupt dismissal of Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general who informed Congress last year of the whistleblower complaint which kicked off Trump's eventual impeachment proceedings. 

Two months after being acquitted by the Senate, Trump on Friday night told lawmakers in a letter to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees that he no longer had confidence in Atkinson.

"It is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general," the president wrote (pdf). "That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general."

Atkinson's firing will be in effect in early May, 30 days from Trump's announcement. 

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, condemned Trump's decision, which he viewed as retaliation against Atkinson for informing Congress of the White House communications with Ukraine last year which were at the center of the impeachment hearings.

Disagreeing with then-acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire's decision to take the whistleblower complaint to Trump's Justice Department, Atkinson alerted Congress about the complaint regarding Trump's conversations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he asked Zelensky to publicly launch a corruption investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. 

Daniel Goldman, who served as counsel to the House Democrats during the impeachment hearings, said Atkinson "followed the law with the utmost integrity" and accused Trump of seeking "pure retaliation, retribution, and reprisal."

Trump was also rebuked by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.

"Inspector General Atkinson is known throughout the Inspector General community for his integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight," said council chairman Michael Horowitz. "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."

National security analyst Clint Watts wrote that Trump chose to fire Atkinson while Americans are focused on the coronavirus pandemic, which has spread to more than 278,000 Americans and has killed more than 7,000.

"While the world is rightly distracted by COVID19, we see leaders around the world with authoritarian tendencies subverting democracy. U.S. is no different," Watts tweeted, suggesting a comparison between Trump and far-right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who secured dictatorial powers this week through an emergency law passed by Parliament. 

At the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), deputy director Donald K. Sherman suggested the American public could soon learn that Atkinson's firing may have been brought about by actions unrelated to last year's whistleblower complaint and Trump's impeachment.

"The question we need to ask right now is what investigations or audits did Atkinson start in the last few months," Sherman wrote. "Were any related to intelligence failures around coronavirus? Why would he be fired so abruptly AND placed on administrative leave?"

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'No Celebration Without Legislation': King Family Leads Voting Rights March

"I will not accept empty promises in pursuit of my father's dream," said Martin Luther King III.

Andrea Germanos ·

Lawmakers Seek to Weaken Ban on Surprise Medical Bills

According to new reporting, the effort to rein in price-gouging is facing pushback from Democratic and Republican members of Congress alike.

Kenny Stancil ·

Billionaires 'Had a Terrific Pandemic' While Inequality Killed Millions: Oxfam

A new report explains how inequality contributed to the death of 21,000 people each day of the pandemic while the wealthiest collectively got $1.2 billion richer every 24 hours.

Jon Queally ·

Biden Urged to Fire Covid Response Chief Over 'Damning' Failures

"Zients has failed to provide the materials necessary to improve the U.S. response, or the guidance necessary to keep the pandemic under control," argued one critic.

Jake Johnson ·

As Sinema Defends Filibuster, Progressives Say 'Vote Her the Hell Out'

"The filibuster is a meaningless Senate rule. It's a remnant of slavery used to block civil rights for generations."

Jake Johnson ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo