US watchdog vows 'aggressive' oversight after intel official fired

The country’s top federal watchdog vowed to maintain “aggressive” oversight of the government after President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse panel approves 0.5B defense policy bill House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate House panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on 'incentives' to attack US troops MORE fired the intelligence community inspector general.

Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department’s inspector general and the chairman of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, praised Michael Atkinson, the ousted intelligence official, and said he and his colleagues would continue his work.

“Inspector General Atkinson is known throughout the Inspector General community for his integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight,” Horowitz said. “The Inspector General Community will continue to conduct aggressive independent oversight of the agencies that we oversee.”

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Atkinson was fired by Trump in a surprise Friday night letter to Congress saying that he “no longer” has confidence in the intelligence community inspector general. Atkinson, who had served as the intelligence community inspector general since May 2018, was the first to alert Congress last year of the whistleblower complaint regarding Trump’s dealings with Ukraine that ultimately sparked congressional impeachment proceedings.

Horowitz said Atkinson’s handling of the complaint was appropriate despite the White House’s efforts to block it from Congress, noting that the then-acting director of national intelligence said last year that Atkinson acted “by the book.”

Democrats have pounced on Trump for the late-night firing, accusing the president of a politically motivated retaliation over Atkinson’s handling of the whistleblower complaint. 

“The shameful late-night firing of Inspector General Atkinson is a brazen act against a patriotic public servant who has honorably performed his duty to protect the Constitution and our national security, as required by the law and by his oath,” said Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse votes unanimously to extend deadline for coronavirus small-business loan program Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House approves .5T green infrastructure plan | Rubio looks to defense bill to block offshore drilling, but some fear it creates a loophole | DC-area lawmakers push for analysis before federal agencies can be relocated MORE (D-Calif.). “This latest act of reprisal against the Intelligence Community threatens to have a chilling effect against all willing to speak truth to power.”