Donald Trump is coming under fire after announcing that he plans to fire the intelligence community inspector general who brought forward a whistleblower’s complaint regarding his actions toward Ukraine, ultimately leading to the president’s impeachment.
Trump notified Congress late on Friday that he was planning to remove Michael Atkinson, who alerted lawmakers to the whistleblower complaint that Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on his political opponent, Joe Biden. As the Washington Post reported, the “bombshell” news comes amid the federal government’s focus on stopping the spread of the coronavirus and has generated significant controversy.
In notifying Congress of his plan to remove Atkinson, Trump said he no longer had “confidence” in the inspector general’s ability to do his job.
“It is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general,” Trump wrote in a letter obtained and published in part by the Washington Post. “That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general.”
The report added that Trump called out Atkinson for allowing the complaint to reach Congress and leading to what the president called a “hoax” of an impeachment. It noted that Trump had the idea to fire Atkinson for weeks, but had been talked out of it until his letter to Congress on Friday.
Trump had already taken action to remove a number of key figures from his impeachment trial, including removing Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from his post within the White House, even having security escort the impeachment witness off the grounds. Just hours later, Trump told ambassador Gordon Sondland that he too was being removed from his post.
“I was advised today that the President intends to recall me effective immediately as United States Ambassador to the European Union,” Gordon Sondland said in a statement, via The Daily Beast.
While reports noted that many insiders expected that Trump would remove Vindman and that Vindman was already planning his exit from the White House, Sondland’s removal was seen as more of a surprise. Prior to taking the post as ambassador to the EU, he was a major supporter of Trump and donated $1 million to the president’s inauguration.
Trump repeatedly claimed he had done nothing wrong in pressing Ukraine for an investigation of Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter, calling the impeachment a politically motivated hoax. Trump was acquitted on both articles of impeachment, claiming that Trump had abused his office and obstructed Congress in refusing to provide documents and witnesses.
Trump’s announcement that he would be firing Atkinson was met with criticism, with many calling it an abuse of power. Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, also said during an appearance on MSNBC that the president seems to have violated a rule requiring him to give Congress notice of 30 days before removing the inspector general, noting that Atkinson had already been placed on administrative leave.