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Outgoing inspector general says Trump fired him for carrying out his 'legal obligations'

 

Michael Atkinson, the outgoing intelligence community inspector general fired by President TrumpDonald TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism MORE on Friday, says he believes the president dismissed him because of his commitment to his duty as an impartial watchdog. 

"It is hard not to think that the President's loss of confidence in me derives from my having faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and impartial Inspector General, and from my commitment to continue to do so," Atkinson said in a statement released Sunday night that was obtained by several news outlets and shared on social media.

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Trump fired Atkinson in a memo on Friday, explaining that he “no longer” has confidence in Atkinson's ability to serve as a watchdog for the intelligence community. Atkinson had previously been the one to alert Congress of an “urgent” whistleblower complaint he received from an intelligence official concerned about Trump's conversation's with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The president on Saturday defended his decision to fire Atkinson, calling him a "disgrace" to inspectors general.

The resulting controversy led to Trump being impeached by the House but acquitted in the Senate, though one Republican senator, Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyFor Biden, a Senate trial could aid bipartisanship around COVID relief Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief GOP senator calls Biden's COVID-19 relief plan a 'non-starter' MORE (R-Utah), did vote guilty on one of the two impeachment charges.

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“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 leading members of the House and Senate intelligence committees in a letter on Friday.

“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.”

Atkinson has served in his current capacity since May of 2018.