Also on Saturday, the office of the director of national intelligence announced that Thomas Monheim, who has served in top legal positions throughout the intelligence community, was named acting inspector general.
In a letter to the House and Senate intelligence committees late Friday, Trump informed lawmakers that he was terminating Atkinson because he no longer had confidence in him.
Atkinson drew strong criticism from Trump’s allies after he provided Congress with the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment. The complaint involved Trump’s communications with Ukraine’s president.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) praised Atkinson on Saturday for his “professionalism and responsiveness,” but did not mention the circumstances of Atkinson’s firing.
“Like any political appointee, the Inspector General serves at the behest of the Executive,” Burr said. “However, in order to be effective, the IG must be allowed to conduct his or her work independent of internal or external pressure.”
Top Democrats strongly condemned the move, dubbing it an abuse of power and an act of politically motivated retaliation. Michael Horowitz, who chairs the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, lauded Atkinson for his “integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law.”
“That includes his actions in handling the Ukraine whistleblower complaint, which the then Acting Director of National Intelligence stated in congressional testimony was done ‘by the book’ and consistent with the law,” Horowitz added.
A congressional source said that while the House and Senate intelligence committees were given the 30-day notice of Atkinson’s removal as required by law, he was immediately placed on administrative leave, meaning that his tenure effectively ended Friday night.
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