U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said he fired Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the U.S. intelligence community who dealt with the whistleblower complaint that ultimately led to his impeachment trial.
Trump said he was exercising his power as president to remove Atkinson from office, citing a lack of confidence in him in a letter addressed to Adam Schiff, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, and Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the committee.
“(It) is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general.
“That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general,” Trump wrote.
The president said that the firing would be effective in 30 days and that he would be submitting a new nominee for the position to the Senate “at a later date”.
Schiff called the firing a “blatant attempt to gut the independence of the Intelligence Community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing.
“It puts our country and national security at even greater risk,” he added in a tweet in which he also shared the letter.
Atkinson received the whistleblower complaint that eventually snowballed into Trump’s impeachment investigation.
He opposed the decision by then-acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire not to transmit the complaint to the intelligence committee.
In February, Trump was acquitted by the Senate on both articles of impeachment when Democrats fell far short of the two-thirds supermajority needed for the removal of the Republican president.
The trial revolved around allegations that Trump attempted to pressure Ukraine to pursue investigations that could help his 2020 re-election bid.