Barr says Trump firing inspector general was ‘right thing’

Attorney General William Barr said Thursday that President Trump did the right thing firing Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the U.S. intelligence community who disclosed the whistleblower complaint that ultimately led to impeachment proceedings.

“I think the president did the right thing in removing Atkinson,” Barr said in a Fox News interview Thursday.

Barr said Atkinson should have sent the whistleblower report to the executive branch before reporting it to Congress. 

“He was told this in a letter to the Department of Justice, and he is obliged to follow the interpretation of the Department of Justice, and he ignored it,” Barr said.  

Atkinson is one of several White House officials that was ousted for their involvement in the impeachment inquiry. Democrats have called Atkinson’s firing politically motivated and have introduced legislation to protect government watchdogs from such firings. 

On Wednesday a bipartisan group of senators asked for more details on Atkinson’s firing, saying that the initial 30-day notification of the decision to fire him did not meet legal requirements governing the removal of an inspector general. 

Atkinson’s removal — which comes amid the coronavirus pandemic — has brought concerns that accountability of the federal government is going unchecked as the nation receives aid from the coronavirus stimulus packages and other aspects of the federal government’s pandemic response.

“I think [Trump] wants responsible watchdogs,” Barr said Friday.

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