Apr 4, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump ousting intelligence community inspector general

Michael Atkinson, inspector general of the intelligence community. Photo: Bill Clark / Getty Images

President Trump notified key lawmakers on Friday that he’s firing Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community's inspector general, who first alerted Congress last September of an "urgent" complaint from an official involving Trump's correspondence with the Ukrainian president.

Why it matters: The move, to take effect in 30 days, comes amid a broader initiative to purge the administration of officials seen as disloyal to the president.

Be smart: The timing of the disclosure, on a Friday night as the nation struggles to manage the novel coronavirus outbreak that has killed and infected thousands, means it may go unnoticed by many Americans.

Flashback: The whistleblower complaint focused on Trump's alleged efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to pursue investigations into political rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden.

Details: Trump informed the House and Senate intelligence committees of his plan to remove Atkinson, per two congressional officials and in an April 3 letter.

  • The contents of the letter were first reported by POLITICO.

What Trump's saying: "It is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general," he wrote in the letter. "This is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general."

  • "He's a total disgrace," Trump added at a White House briefing on Saturday, referring to Atkinson. "He took a fake report and he brought it to Congress."

What they're saying:

  • Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee: “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 Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.): “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. ... the President’s dead of night decision puts our country and national security at even greater risk.”
  • Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.): "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."

Read Trump's letter:

Go deeper

Updated 44 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 5,923,432— Total deaths: 364,836 — Total recoveries — 2,493,434Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,745,930 — Total deaths: 102,808 — Total recoveries: 406,446 — Total tested: 16,099,515Map.
  3. Public health: Hydroxychloroquine prescription fills exploded in March —How the U.S. might distribute a vaccine.
  4. 2020: North Carolina asks RNC if convention will honor Trump's wish for no masks or social distancing.
  5. Business: Fed chair Powell says coronavirus is "great increaser" of income inequality.
  6. 1 sports thing: NCAA outlines plan to get athletes back to campus.

In photos: Protests intensify across the U.S. over George Floyd's death

Protesters outside the Capitol in Washington, DC, on May 29. Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

Mass protests in Atlanta, New York City and Washington, D.C., sparked clashes with police on Friday, as demonstrators demanded justice for the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after at least one police officer knelt on his neck on Monday.

The big picture: The officer involved in the killing of Floyd was charged with third-degree murder on Friday, after protests continued in Minneapolis for three days.

Zuckerberg says Trump’s “shooting” tweet didn’t violate Facebook’s rules

Mark Zuckerberg at the 56th Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany on February 15. Photo: Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Facebook did not remove President Trump's threat to send the National Guard to Minneapolis because the company's policy on inciting violence allows discussion on state use of force, CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained in a post on Friday.

The big picture: Zuckerberg's statement comes on the heels of leaked internal criticism from Facebook employees over how the company handled Trump's posts about the Minneapolis protests and his unsubstantiated claims on mail-in ballots — both of which Twitter has now taken action on.