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Trump fires intelligence community watchdog who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE has fired the inspector general for the intelligence community, saying he “no longer” has confidence in the key government watchdog. 

Michael Atkinson, who had served as the intelligence community inspector general since May 2018, was the first to alert Congress last year of an “urgent” whistleblower complaint he obtained from an intelligence official regarding Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. His firing will take effect 30 days from Friday, the day Trump sent a notice informing Congress of Atkinson's dismissal. 

“This is to advise that I am exercising my power as President to remove from office the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, effective 30 days from today,” Trump wrote to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence committees in a letter obtained by The Hill.

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“As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as president, have the power of appointment, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General,” he added. “That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.” 

Trump said he will submit to the Senate his nominee to replace Atkinson “at a later date.”

Democrats were swift in their condemnation of the firing, saying Trump was retaliating against Atkinson for raising the whistleblower complaint that ultimately led to scrutiny over the president’s dealings with Ukraine, the focal point of the House’s impeachment investigation. 

“President Trump’s decision to fire Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson is yet another blatant attempt by the President to gut the independence of the Intelligence Community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing,” said Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffMedia and Hollywood should stop their marching-to-Georgia talk Top cybersecurity official ousted by Trump Devin Nunes fends off Democratic opponent in California MORE (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a vocal Trump detractor.

“In the midst of a national emergency, it is unconscionable that the President is once again attempting to undermine the integrity of the intelligence community by firing yet another an intelligence official simply for doing his job," added Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLeadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns IRS races to get remaining stimulus checks to low-income households Hillicon Valley: Trump fires top federal cybersecurity official, GOP senators push back | Apple to pay 3 million to resolve fight over batteries | Los Angeles Police ban use of third-party facial recognition software MORE (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "The work of the intelligence community has never been about loyalty to a single individual; it’s about keeping us all safe from those who wish to do our country harm."

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Trump railed against Congress’s impeachment proceedings for months, claiming he was the victim of a “witch hunt” and denying claims that he pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.

Atkinson came out against then-acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph MaguireJoseph MaguireRetired Navy admiral behind bin Laden raid says he voted for Biden Congressional Democrats request FBI briefing on foreign election interference efforts Wells Fargo told employees to delete TikTok from work phones MORE’s decision to withhold the whistleblower complaint from Congress, pitting him against the White House’s desire to keep the complaint out of the hands of congressional investigators. 

Trump nominated Atkinson for his role in 2017 after he had served 16 years at the Justice Department. One of the focuses of his job was to probe activities falling under the purview of the Director of National Intelligence and reviewing whistleblower complaints from within the intelligence community.

Olivia Beavers contributed to this report