U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff — to no one’s surprise — has condemned Donald Trump’s decision to fire the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson.
Why did the president can the IG? Because, in my view, Atkinson was doing the job to which he was assigned, which was to root out allegations of government fraud and abuse of power.
Trump, though, sees it differently.
Atkinson had revealed to Congress a report from a whistleblower who had reported that Trump had placed a phone call to the president of Ukraine in which he sought a political favor in exchange for weapons that Congress had approved for Ukraine’s fight against Russia-backed rebels.
The phone call led ultimately to Trump’s impeachment by the House and a Senate trial that acquitted him of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Trump this week called Atkinson’s report “fake news.” He said Atkinson did a “terrible job” as inspector general and that the report of alleged abuse of power was discredited by his acquittal in the Senate.
Indeed, the report was not “fake.” It was credible. The acquittal in the Senate trial came about only because insufficient numbers of senators voted to convict Trump.
So, for Trump to fire an inspector general simply for doing his job amounts to one more example of presidential bullying.
As for Schiff’s criticism, the congressman said that Trump is trying to undermine the independence of the IG. As Newsweek reported: The congressman warned that the president was “retaliating” against perceived enemies and placing “cronies” to lead oversight, all while the nation is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
Retaliation against “perceived enemies” sounds completely believable to me.