A Trump appointee has found himself mired in the center of the controversy surrounding the whistleblower complaint about Trump and Ukraine. Here's what you need to know about Michael Atkinson, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community.
Who is Atkinson?
Appointed as IC IG by Trump in 2018, Atkinson's long-standing reputation as a straight-shooter with professional integrity has bolstered the legitimacy of the whistleblower complaint despite the President's attempts to paint it as a partisan attack, multiple sources have told CNN.
Why is the IC IG an important player here?
At the end of August, two weeks after Atkinson received the whistleblower's complaint about Trump's July phone call, he notified his superior, the acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. Atkinson believed it to be a credible complaint and found it worthy to be handled by the intelligence community and referred to Congress under the law.
But instead of routing to Congress, the whistleblower's allegation wound its way across the Justice Department.
How Atkinson dealt with the Department of Justice
Atkinson, who had first heard from the whistleblower, also referred the matter to the Justice Department.
That notification — along with communications from Maguire to Justice's Office of Legal Counsel — kicked off the DOJ's probe of whether there was a possible violation of a campaign finance criminal statute.
Justice's Criminal Division took the lead. Prosecutors obtained the summary transcript of the call from the White House, and prosecutors confirmed with knowledgeable people at the White House that the five-page document was the best evidence available, according to the officials. They did not interview any to gather more facts.
On the day after Labor Day, the Office of Legal Counsel had its answer for Maguire. The whistleblower's complaint shouldn't be considered of "urgent concern" and require disclosure to Congress, Steven Engel, the assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel wrote.
Maguire is defending Atkinson today
During his testimony before the House Intel Committee, the acting spy chief said he believes everything that Atkinson did was lawful and said he intends to ensure that Atkinson can continue "to be able to do his job unfettered."