Apr 4, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump defends firing intel community watchdog as lawmakers demand answers

President Donald Trump answers questions in the press briefing room

President Donald Trump answers questions in the press briefing room of the White House. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump doubled down on Saturday on his decision to fire Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, calling the official a "disgrace" for his handling of the whistleblower complaint that triggered his impeachment.

Why it matters: The move is part of a broader push to purge the administration of officials deemed disloyal to the president. But both Democratic and Republican lawmakers are demanding an explanation over his latest action.

What they're saying:

  • Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted, "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."
  • House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) 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. ... [T]he President’s dead of night decision puts our country and national security at even greater risk.”
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), told CNN: "When you speak truth to power, you should be a hero. But in this administration, when you speak truth to power, all too often, you get fired."
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a statement: "Inspectors general ... help drain the swamp, so any removal demands an explanation. Congress has been crystal clear that written reasons must be given when IGs are removed for a lack of confidence. More details are needed from the administration."
  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in a statement: "I did not find [Trump's] rationale for removing Inspector General Atkinson to be persuasive. ... I believe Inspector General Atkinson served the Intelligence Community and the American people well, and his removal was not warranted."
  • Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said in a statement: "Like any political appointee, the Inspector General serves at the behest of the Executive. However, in order to be effective, the IG must be allowed to conduct his or her work independent of internal or external pressure. It is my hope the next nominee for the role of ICIG will uphold the same important standards laid out by Congress when we created this role."

Go deeper: Trump's new purge

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