WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Saturday defended his decision to fire Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general who flagged the Ukraine whistleblower complaint that ended in his impeachment, calling him a “disgrace.”
“I thought he did a terrible job, absolutely terrible,” Trump said at a press briefing at the White House. “He took a fake report and brought it to Congress… not a big Trump fan, that I can tell you.”
“That man is a disgrace to IGs,” Trump said of Atkinson. “He is a total disgrace.”
Trump also attacked the whistleblower who first reported the phone call Trump had with Ukraine that was at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.
“They give this whistleblower a status that he doesn't deserve, he's a fake whistleblower. And frankly, somebody ought to sue his ass off,” Trump said.
Trump informed lawmakers late Friday night that he was firing Atkinson, whose insistence that Congress needed to be made aware of a whistleblower complaint about Trump’s interactions with Ukraine kicked off the impeachment proceedings last year.
Trump had reportedly been considering removing Atkinson since November. His decision to follow through on Friday sparked immediate criticism from Democrats and government watchdogs who warned that Trump’s pattern of removing officials from their positions that cooperated in the impeachment proceedings was concerning.
“That’s my decision. I have the absolute right,” Trump said, defending Atkinson's firing.
Trump informed Congress in a letter Friday that he was firing Atkinson because he no longer had confidence in him.
Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council aide, were also let go from their positions after cooperating in the impeachment hearings.