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Former intelligence community watchdog addresses recent firing

Posted April 5, 2020 10:31 p.m. EDT

— The former intelligence community inspector general, who informed Congress of the whistleblower complaint that led to President Donald Trump's impeachment, said Sunday that he believes Trump fired him for doing his job.

Michael Atkinson said in a statement that he was "disappointed and saddened" by Trump's decision to oust him on Friday, with the President stating that Atkinson did not have his "fullest confidence."

"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 wrote.

Atkinson urged his former colleagues to continue working independently, noting that "our government benefits when individuals are encouraged to report suspected fraud, waste, and abuse."

"I have faith that my colleagues in Inspectors General Offices throughout the federal government will continue to operate effective and independent whistleblower programs, and that they will continue to do everything in their power to protect the rights of whistleblowers," he added. "Please do not allow recent events to silence your voices."

Atkinson's firing comes as Trump has faced widespread criticism for the federal government's response to the ongoing corornavirus outbreak, and has said the impeachment trial "probably did" distract him from responding to the virus' outbreak during the trial in January and early February.

Trump defended his decision on Saturday, charging that Atkinson "did a terrible job, absolutely terrible" and "took a fake report and gave it to Congress."

Atkinson came under fire from Trump and his allies because he notified Congress of the anonymous whistleblower complaint that alleged Trump sought dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and withheld US security aid from Ukraine. Atkinson took the step under the inspector general statute when he determined that the complaint was credible.

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