Bipartisan Group of Senators Asks Trump to Explain Reasoning for Firing IC Watchdog
Yesterday, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and a bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to President Trump asking for more details regarding the firing of Intelligence Community Inspector General (IC IG) Michael Atkinson. Atkinson was responsible for alerting Congress to the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment.
Grassley, who serves as chairman of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus, argued that Trump provided insignificant reasons for firing the government watchdog.
“Congressional intent is clear that an expression of lost confidence, without further explanation, is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the statute. This is in large part because Congress intended that inspectors general only be removed when there is clear evidence of wrongdoing or failure to perform the duties of the office, and not for reasons unrelated to their performance, to help preserve IG independence.”
Trump announced the termination of Atkinson on Friday, citing a lack of “confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general.” In remarks the following day, Trump defended the decision stating, Atkinson “did a terrible job, absolutely terrible.” He also said Atkinson “took a fake report and gave it to Congress.”
The Senators stressed that “all inspectors general (IG) are designed to fulfill a dual role, reporting to both the President and Congress, to secure efficient, robust, and independent agency oversight.”
The Senators allege that the administration by-passed Congress’s “opportunity for an appropriate dialogue” “by placing the IG on 30 days of administrative leave and naming an acting replacement.”
The Senators ask that President Trump provide a detailed explanation of the removal of Inspector General Atkinson no later than April 13, 2020. And to also explain appointing an acting official before the end of the 30-day notice period comports with statutory requirements.
The day after his termination was made public, Atkinson described how he “faithfully discharged” his duties as “an independent and impartial Inspector General” in a statement encouraging other government whistleblowers to speak up.
Seven other senators signed the letter.
Read the Senator’s letter to President Trump.
Ben Kostyack also contributed to this article.