Trump will fire intelligence watchdog at center of impeachment episode

Trump will fire intelligence watchdog at center of impeachment episode

With the country focused on a novel coronavirus that has killed more than 7,000 Americans and could kill perhaps scores of thousands more, Trump moved to fire Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community's inspector general who helped set the president's impeachment in motion a year ago.

"This is to advise that I am exercising my power as President to remove from office the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community", the letters to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees said.

A conservative ally of the president said inspectors general are part of the US government's "regulatory and compliance systems/organs" that protect the establishment.

The president sent a letter to Congress on Friday saying the firing of Michael Atkinson will take effect in 30 days.

Atkinson, who Trump appointed to his post in 2018, was long understood to be in the president's sights. But the intelligence watchdog isn't the only official involved in Trump's impeachment to be punished by the president since his February acquittal.

In her own statement on Saturday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Atkinson's firing "a brazen act against a patriotic public servant who has honorably performed his duty". "Firing IG Atkinson is corruption, and it threatens our national security during a global crisis", Sen.

The president said he would nominate a replacement "who has my full confidence and who meets the appropriate qualifications", at a later time. But placing Atkinson on administrative leave effectively sidelines him immediately, the aide said.

The complaint became the basis for Trump's impeachment, which saw him put through a historic trial for removal in the Senate in January.

Democrats reacted swiftly to Atkinson's removal.

'We should all be deeply disturbed by ongoing attempts to politicize the nation's intelligence agencies, ' Warner said.

Without mentioning Trump, Horowitz said the inspector general community would continue to "conduct aggressive, independent oversight of the agencies that we oversee".

Atkinson was also concerned that Trump potentially exposed himself to "serious national security and counter-intelligence risks" when he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son during a July 25 phone call, according to a Justice Department legal opinion. "We're not here to create a slush fund for Donald Trump and his family, or a slush fund for the Treasury Department to be able to hand out to their friends", said U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of MA.

Atkinson's firing comes as part of a larger shakeup in the intelligence community.

At the same time, other newspaper sources noted that although Trump did express such an idea, "the dismissal of Atkinson was never seriously considered".

He has weighed for months removing Atkinson, whom he picked for the job in late 2017, but has been periodically talked out of it.

According to two congressional officials, Atkinson has been placed on administrative leave, meaning he will not serve out the 30 days.

So by selecting Ratcliffe again, Grenell can stay for up to 210 days while Ratcliffe weaves his way through the Senate confirmation process, and for another 210 days if senators reject Ratcliffe´s nomination.

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