The Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson was appointed by Mr. Trump in 2018 and fired on a Friday night and in the midst of the pandemic, April 3. President Trump made clear he dismissed Atkinson in reprisal for his role in revealing the Ukraine whistleblower letter to Congress.
According to the New York Times, Republicans have largely been silent, although Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and long a defender of whistle-blower protections, has said he wants more “written reasons” about Mr. Trump’s reasoning for removing the inspector general.
Here is a portion of Atkinson’s statement about his firing submitted last week.
“With regard to the Ukrainian whistleblower matter, I am grateful to the many individuals who spoke publicly in support of the ICIG’s actions in administering the Whistleblower’s disclosure. Sixty seven Inspectors General throughout the federal government warned of the potential harm that can result from second-guessing determinations made by independent Inspectors General responding to whistleblower disclosures, particularly if whistleblowers “think their effort to disclose information will be for naught or, worse, that they risk adverse consequences for coming forward when they see something they think is wrong. That would be a grave loss for IG oversight and, as a result, for the American taxpayer.’’ Letter from the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency to the Honorable Steven A. Engel, Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (Oct. 22, 2019).
It has been an honor to serve the American people during my tenure as the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, and to work alongside the dedicated, selfless, and courageous public servants throughout the Intelligence Community, especially my colleagues at the ICIG. Those of us who vowed to protect a whistleblower’s right to safely be heard must, to the end, do what we promised to do, no matter how difficult and no matter the personal consequences. I will be forever grateful to the many public officials and others who fight tirelessly and consistently, in words and deeds, in ordinary and extraordinary matters, to protect the rights of all whistleblowers and, in turn, the best interests of the United States.
Finally, a message for any government employee or contractor who believes they have learned of or observed unethical, wasteful, or illegal behavior in the federal government. The American people deserve an honest and effective government. They are counting on you to use authorized channels to bravely speak up – there is no disgrace in doing so. It is important to remember, as others have said, that the need for secrecy in the United States Intelligence Community is not a grant of power, but a grant of trust. Our government benefits when individuals are encouraged to report suspected fraud, waste, and abuse. I have faith that my colleagues in Inspectors General Offices throughout the federal government will continue to operate effective and independent whistleblower programs, and that they will continue to do everything in their power to protect the rights of whistleblowers. Please do not allow recent events to silence your voices.”