A bipartisan group of senators is pushing for President Trump to provide more details on his decision to fire the intelligence community’s top watchdog, which sparked days of controversy in Washington.
Eight senators sent a letter, spearheaded by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), to Trump on Wednesday, saying that the initial 30-day notification of the decision to fire Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson did not meet legal requirements governing the removal of an inspector general.
“Congressional intent is clear that an expression of lost confidence, without further explanation, is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the statute. This is in large part because Congress intended that inspectors general only be removed when there is clear evidence of wrongdoing or failure to perform the duties of the office, and not for reasons unrelated to their performance, to help preserve [inspector general] independence,” they wrote.
They added that in an effort to “confirm that there are clear, substantial reasons” for Atkinson’s removal, they are asking Trump to provide a “more detailed reasoning” for his firing by April 13.
In addition to Grassley, GOP Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Susan Collins (Maine) and Democratic Sens. Gary Peters (Mich.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Mark Warner (Va.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) signed the letter to Trump.
The president sent shockwaves through Washington
on Friday night when he notified Congress, in the middle of a pandemic, that he was removing Atkinson, who handled the whistleblower complaint relating to Trump’s actions toward Ukraine that sparked the House impeachment inquiry.
“It is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General,” Trump wrote in the Friday letter. “That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.”
Trump then defended the decision
during a press conference on Saturday, calling Atkinson a “disgrace” who did a “terrible job.” Atkinson said in a statement that he believed Trump fired him for carrying out his “legal obligations.”
Trump is required to give Congress a 30-day notification before he removes an inspector general (IG). But senators said in their letter on Wednesday that a decision to place Atkinson on administrative leave “effectively removed that IG and appears to have circumvented Congress’s role.”
In addition to the more detailed reasoning for Atkinson’s removal, the lawmakers also want to know Trump’s views on appointing an acting inspector general before the end of the 30-day congressional notification period.
Updated: 9:35 p.m.