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As was revealed in a letter sent late on Friday, United States President Donald Trump has fired Michael K. Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general, after stating that he has “lost confidence in him.”
Atkinson was responsible for initiating impeachment proceedings after he informed lawmakers of the whistleblower’s complaint in the Ukraine scandal that ultimately led to the president’s impeachment and subsequent Senate trial.
Trump sent the letter to leaders of two congressional intelligence committees (House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) writing, “[…] it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspector general…” and “that is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General."
Atkinson will officially leave his role in 30 days, though by placing him on administrative leave, the Trump administration has succeeded in sidelining him immediately.
No further explanation was provided and no permanent successor has yet to be named.
This is not the first time an official has been fired by Trump over their role in the impeachment proceedings.
On Friday, February 7, Trump fired Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a veteran of the Iraq War serving on the National Security Council, and Gordon Sondland, the Ambassador to the European Union.
Another impeachment witness, US Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor, stepped down in January.
A string of other officials have been dismissed after being targeted by the president. These include FBI Director James Comey and previous US Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, among others.
The president’s decision to remove Atkinson has been widely criticized. California representative Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Chairman, the same official who led the case against Trump during the impeachment trial, stated that the move was just another “blatant attempt” to “retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing."
The dismissal comes amidst a global pandemic that has hit the US particularly hard. As of now, the US has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, with the highest percentage from the state of New York.
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