(USA Features) President Donald Trump on Sunday defended his firing of former Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, calling him a “total disgrace” and noting that as head of the Executive Branch he has the right to replace officials at whim.
“He’s a total disgrace,” Trump said Sunday. “That’s my decision. I have the absolute right.”
Atkinson, the president said, mishandled a complaint by a still-anonymous whistleblower who claimed the president improperly sought an agreement from the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden in exchange for receiving needed military aid.
A transcript of the July 25 phone call released by the White House does not show the president demanding such an agreement, also known as a “quid pro quo.”
Nevertheless, it was the whistleblower’s complaint that led to the president’s impeachment.
Trump said that the complaint did not have to be rushed and that Atkinson himself had determined there were indications of political bias by the complainant.
In a letter to the Senate intelligence committee on Friday, Trump said that he would remove Atkinson from office “effective 30 days from today.”
“As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as president, have the power of appointment, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general.”
“That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general,” Trump said in the letter.
Reports noted at the time that Atkinson altered whistleblower rules shortly after receiving the Ukraine complaint to allow for second-hand information to be utilized. Federal whistleblower laws state that such complaints have to be first-person accounts.
In addition, the whistleblower falsely claimed in the complaint that he or she did not speak to Congress about the matter. House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff’s (D-Calif.) office was contacted by the whistleblower, according to previous reporting.