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Inspector general fired by Trump defends flagging whistleblower complaint

Michael Atkinson said he acted impartially and urged other government employees to "bravely speak up."
Inspector General Michael Atkinson Appears Before House Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence For Closed Door Briefing
Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community's inspector general, leaves a meeting at the Capitol on Oct. 4, 2019.Mark Wilson / Getty Images file

The inspector general whose firing was disclosed in a letter to Congress on Sunday defended his handling of a whistleblower complaint that led to President Donald Trump's impeachment.

The inspector general of the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, said in a statement that it was hard not to think Trump fired him because he "faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and impartial" inspector general.

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Atkinson, a career prosecutor who was confirmed by the Senate in 2018, urged government employees and contractors to use "authorized channels to bravely speak up."

"There is no disgrace in doing so," he said.

In a letter to Congress obtained by NBC News on Friday, Trump said he no longer had confidence in Atkinson, who will remain at his post for 28 more days.

Speaking to reporters Saturday, Trump called Atkinson a "disgrace" and said he did a "terrible job."

Atkinson believed the whistleblower complaint was "an urgent concern" and said he was required by law to provide it to congressional intelligence committees.