Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight
Susan Collins: Firing of intelligence community watchdog 'not warranted'
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is breaking with President Trump's decision to fire Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community, saying his removal was "not warranted."
"While I recognize that the President has the authority to appoint and remove Inspectors General, I believe Inspector General Atkinson served the intelligence community and the American people well, and his removal was not warranted," she said in a statement over the weekend.
Collins noted that by giving the heads of the House and Senate Intelligence committees a 30-day notification that he was removing Atkinson, Trump followed a 2008 law on inspectors general that she co-authored. But the senator, who is facing a tough reelection race in the fall, added that she didn't find Trump's "rationale" for firing Atkinson to be "persuasive."
Trump sent shockwaves through Washington when he announced on Friday night, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, that he was firing Atkinson, who had handled the whistleblower complaint related to Trump's actions toward Ukraine that sparked the House impeachment inquiry.
Trump defended the firing during a press conference on Saturday and called Atkinson a "disgrace" to inspectors general.
"I thought he did a terrible job. Absolutely terrible. He took a whistleblower report, which turned out to be a fake report ... and he brought it to Congress with an emergency," Trump told reporters at a White House briefing. "Not a big Trump fan, that I can tell you."
Atkinson, in a statement, said he believes Trump fired him for carrying out his "legal obligations."
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has defended whistleblowers and authored whistleblower legislation, said "more details are needed from the administration." Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said it was Trump's "prerogative" to fire him but "I think we should get more detail."