Susan Collins rebukes Trump decision to remove intelligence watchdog

Susan Collins rebukes Trump decision to remove intelligence watchdog

Sen. Susan Collins weighed in on President Trump’s decision to fire intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, calling the move “not warranted.”

Collins, a Maine Republican up for reelection this year, said in a weekend statement that she thought Atkinson, who handled the whistleblower complaint that sparked Trump’s impeachment, did a good job as inspector general.

“While I recognize that the president has the authority to appoint and remove inspectors general, I believe Inspector General Atkinson served the intelligence community and the American people well, and his removal was not warranted,” she said.

Trump announced the move to Congress on Friday and said that he “no longer” had confidence in Atkinson. The president said that Atkinson’s departure was effective in 30 days and that he planned to appoint a replacement “who has my full confidence and who meets the appropriate qualifications.”

Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general, defended Atkinson and said that “aggressive, independent oversight” would still continue in his absence.

“Inspector General Atkinson is known throughout the inspector general community for his integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight,” Horowitz said. “That includes his actions in handling the Ukraine whistleblower complaint, which the then acting director of national intelligence stated in congressional testimony was done ‘by the book’ and consistent with the law.”

Atkinson also addressed his dismissal in a Sunday letter and said the president’s lack of confidence likely “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.” He also encouraged potential whistleblowers to continue to speak out.

Trump blasted Atkinson during a Saturday news conference and said the inspector general did an “absolutely terrible” job in his role.

“He took a whistleblower report, which turned out to be a fake report. It was fake. It was totally wrong,” Trump said. “It was about my conversation with the president of Ukraine. He took a fake report, and he brought it to Congress with an emergency, OK? Not a big Trump fan — that I can tell you.”

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