Michael Atkinson, the former inspector general of the intelligence community whom President Donald Trump fired last week, spoke out on Sunday about his sudden ousting.
In a lengthy statement, Atkinson implied that Trump's decision to fire him was politically motivated.
"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.
BREAKING: Michael ATKINSON, the outgoing inspector general fired by Trump on Friday, says he believes Trump fired h… https://t.co/LeuIJp1nhw— Kyle Cheney (@Kyle Cheney)1586135817.0
Indeed, Trump's abrupt decision to fire Atkinson, made Friday evening, led to accusations of political "retribution" against Atkinson for informing Congress about the Ukraine whistleblower. The complaint, which alleged that Trump improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate his political opponents, triggered Trump's impeachment, which ultimately concluded with his acquittal in the Senate.
In a letter to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Trump said on Friday that he "no longer" has confidence in Atkinson as inspector general, but did not explain why. On Saturday, Trump explained he fired Atkinson for delivering the whistleblower complaint to Congress.
"I thought he did a terrible job. Absolutely terrible," Trump said. "He took this terrible, inaccurate whistleblower report and he brought it to Congress."
However, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz responded to Atkinson's firing by explaining that his handling of the Ukraine whistleblower complaint "was done 'by the book' and consistent with the law."
Both Democrats and Republicans were upset over Trump's decision. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the senior-most senator, said over the weekend that the White House must answer for 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.