President Donald Trump has raised firing the intelligence community inspector general, Michael Atkinson, for deeming a whistleblower complaint regarding the President’s Ukraine dealings to be credible and reporting it to Congress, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
Citing four people familiar with the discussions, the Times reported that Trump first conveyed his displeasure around the September public release of the whistleblower complaint, and that he has said he does not know why Atkinson shared it.
The whistleblower filed the complaint, which raised concerns over Trump’s interactions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, with Atkinson in August. Atkinson, who Trump appointed in 2017, notified House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff on September 9 of an “urgent concern” – the complaint – that acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire had overruled.
Both the Office of the Director for National Intelligence and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr’s office declined to comment when reached by CNN. Spokespeople for the White House and inspector general’s office declined to comment to the Times.
The report follows a tweet from Trump on Saturday calling for Atkinson – along with a slew of Democrats – to testify after House Republicans on Saturday submitted a list of witnesses they’d like to testify as part of the chamber’s impeachment inquiry.
According to US code, “an Inspector General may be removed from office by the President.” The statute states that both chambers of Congress must be notified 30 days beforehand if the president decides to fire the intelligence community’s inspector general.
Two people familiar with what took place told the Times that they thought Trump had simply been venting and asserted that firing Atkinson had never been brought up in earnest. CNN has reached out to the White House for comment.
The Times also reported that people close to Trump think that the potential repercussions of removing Atkinson could be politically disastrous, as Trump would have to count on all available reinforcements from Senate Republican should he face an impeachment trial.
CNN’s Zachary Cohen, Alex Marquardt, Marshall Cohen, Zachary B. Wolf and Curt Merrill contributed to this report.