Burr says intelligence watchdog should be 'independent' after inspector general firing

 

Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrFISA 'reform': Groundhog Day edition Rubio: Coronavirus conspiracy theories could be used in foreign election misinformation campaigns Justice Department closing stock investigations into Loeffler, Inhofe, Feinstein MORE (R-N.C.) said the intelligence community inspector general (ICIG) should be allowed to work free of any “pressure” after President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE fired its top watchdog in what critics say was an act of political retaliation.

"Like any political appointee, the Inspector General serves at the behest of the Executive. However, in order to be effective, the IG must be allowed to conduct his or her work independent of internal or external pressure," said Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"It is my hope the next nominee for the role of ICIG will uphold the same important standards laid out by Congress when we created this role," he added.

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The remarks come the day after Trump informed Congress that he was firing Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general.

Atkinson, who was tapped by Trump for the role in 2017, was the first to raise the whistleblower complaint over Trump’s dealings with Ukraine that ultimately led to Congress’s impeachment proceedings.

Trump and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill had sought to keep the whistleblower complaint from House impeachment investigators, casting their probe as a “witch hunt” and saying Atkinson was “facing serious questions.” 

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Democrats in Washington pounced on the firing, claiming it was retaliation for Atkinson’s handling of the complaint, but most Republicans were mum over the appropriateness of his dismissal.

However, some expressed concerns over the firing. Burr touted Atkinson’s “professionalism” in office, while Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyExpanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support Grassley, Leahy urge Roberts to permanently air Supreme Court arguments Democrats broaden probe into firing of State Department watchdog MORE (R-Iowa), usually a staunch ally of the White House, said an explanation was needed.

"Inspectors general play a critical role in protecting against fraud, waste, abuse and misconduct, and their work helps ensure the government efficiently serves the people. And they often serve as an outlet to whistleblowers who shine a light to problems in government," said Grassley. "They help drain the swamp, so any removal demands an explanation."

"Congress has been crystal clear that written reasons must be given when [inspectors general] are removed for a lack of confidence," he added. More details are needed from the administration."

Atkinson’s firing will take effect 30 days from Friday, the day Trump sent a notice informing Congress of the dismissal, and the president said he will submit to the Senate his nominee for a replacement “at a later date.”