Mon, 25 May 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump has fired the intelligence official who handled the whistle-blower complaint involving aid to Ukraine that triggered Trump's impeachment.

Trump informed the Senate Intelligence Committee late on April 3 of his decision to fire Michael Atkinson.

Atkinson served as inspector-general of the intelligence community and was the first to inform Congress about an anonymous whistle-blower complaint last year that described Trump's pressure on Ukraine to investigate former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son.

Atkinson, a Trump appointee, told lawmakers he believed the complaint was 'urgent' and 'credible.'

The whistle-blower complaint, which was eventually released publicly, revealed that Trump had asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a July phone call to investigate the Bidens.

The complaint prompted a House investigation that ultimately resulted in Trump's impeachment. The Republican-led Senate acquitted Trump in February.

Trump said in the letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee that it was 'vital' that he has confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors-general, and 'that is no longer the case with regard to this inspector-general.'

He did not elaborate, except to say that 'it is extremely important that we promote the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of federal programs and activities,' and that an inspector-general is critical to those goals.

The letter was addressed to Representative Adam Schiff (Democrat-California), the head of the House Intelligence Committee, and Devin Nunes (Republican-California), the top Republican on the committee.

Schiff called the firing a 'blatant attempt to gut the independence of the Intelligence Community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing.'

'It puts our country and national security at even greater risk,' he said on Twitter.

Trump wrote that he planned to nominate an individual 'who has my full confidence' to replace Atkinson at a later date.

With reporting by AP and dpa

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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