President Donald Trump fired Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson on Friday, triggering accusations of "retribution" against the man who first informed Congress about the Ukraine whistleblower.
Just two weeks before his ousting, Atkinson wrote to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and "took a thinly veiled swipe" at officials who did not defend the whistleblower, including, presumably, the president, although Atkinson did not cite specific names, Politico reported.
"As you know, the past six months have been a searing time for whistleblowers and for those who work to protect them from reprisal or threat of reprisal for reporting alleged wrongdoing," Atkinson said.
Atkinson went on to write:
People may spend their entire careers publicly encouraging whistleblowers to come forward and sound the alarm if they observe suspected abuse or wrongdoing in the federal government. Many of those same people proclaim publicly that they will stand by whistleblowers and protect them from reprisal or threat of reprisal when they do sound the alarm.
Those repeated assurances of support for whistleblowers in ordinary matters are rendered meaningless if whistleblowers actually come forward in good faith with information concerning an extraordinary matter and are allowed to be vilified, threatened, publicly ridiculed, or — perhaps even worse — utterly abandoned by fair weather whistleblower champions. It is precisely when the stakes are highest, and the conditions searing, that public officials must well and faithfully discharge the duties of their offices.
According to Politico, Atkinson's letter came in response to Schumer's request that all inspectors general investigate "instances of retaliation against anyone who has made, or in the future makes, protected disclosures of presidential misconduct."
Trump defended his decision to fire Atkinson on Saturday as his "absolute right." He also bashed Atkinson for giving Congress the "terrible, inaccurate whistleblower report."
Atkinson's firing will become official in 30 days.
In the meantime, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said the White House must answer questions Atkinson's dismissal.
"Congress has been crystal clear that written reasons must be given when IGs are removed for a lack of confidence. More details are needed from the administration," Grassley said Saturday.