President Donald Trump defended his decision to fire Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community’s top watchdog, on Saturday over his handling of the whistleblower that led to his impeachment trial. 

“I thought he did a terrible job. Absolutely terrible,” Trump said. “He took this terrible, inaccurate whistleblower report and he brought it to Congress.” 

At a White House press conference, Trump suggested House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff was the whistleblower’s “informer,” with no evidence of his claim. 

“They give this whistleblower a status that he doesn’t deserve. He’s a fake whistleblower,” Trump said. “And frankly, somebody ought to sue his ass off.”


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Many Republican senators disagree with Trump’s decision to fire Atkinson. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Atkinson’s firing “demands an explanation.” Although he didn’t outright criticize the president for his decision, Grassley said, “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.”


The office of the director of national intelligence announced on Saturday that Thomas Monheim, who has served in top legal positions throughout the intelligence community, would take Atkinson’s place. 

Atkinson sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer last month. In the letter, Atkinson said the last six months were “a searing time for whistleblowers,” and criticized those who weren’t defending whistleblowers. 

“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,” Atkinson wrote. 

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Saturday praised Atkinson for his “professionalism and responsiveness.” “Like any political appointee, the Inspector General serves at the behest of the Executive,” Burr said. “However, in order to be effective, the IG must be allowed to conduct his or her work independent of internal or external pressure.”

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