Michael Atkinson, the United States intelligence inspector general ousted by President Donald Trump in relation to his handling of the whistleblower complaint that ignited the president’s impeachment proceedings, has urged whistleblowers not to be “silenced” by the president’s misconduct.
“Please do not allow recent events to silence your voices,” he said in a statement released yesterday.
BREAKING: Michael ATKINSON, the outgoing inspector general fired by Trump on Friday, says he believes Trump fired him for doing his job appropriately — particularly with the Ukraine whistleblower. pic.twitter.com/GUvLRO1Av5
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) April 6, 2020
“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,” Atkinson said, “and from my commitment to continue to do so.”
“As an Inspector General, I was legally obligated to ensure that whistleblowers had an effective and authorized means to disclose urgent matters involving classified information to the congressional intelligence committees, and that when they did blow the whistle in an authorized manner, their identities would be protected as a guard against reprisals,” he continued. “Inspectors General are able to fulfill their critical watchdog functions because, by law, they are supposed to be independent of both the Executive agencies they oversee and of Congress.”
“Those of us who vowed to protect a whistleblower’s right to safely be heard must, to the end, do what we promised to do, no matter how difficult and no matter the personal consequences,” he wrote. “I will be forever grateful to the many public officials and others who fight tirelessly and consistently, in words and deeds, in ordinary and extraordinary matters, to protect the rights of all whistleblowers and, in turn, the best interests of the United States.”
President Trump defended his decision to fire Atkinson, saying, “I thought he did a terrible job. Absolutely terrible. He took this terrible, inaccurate whistleblower report and he brought it to Congress.”