Trump Fires Intelligence Community Inspector General Who Informed Congress Of The Ukraine Whistleblower Complaint

President Donald Trump has fired the CIA Inspector General who was responsible for informing Congress of the whistleblower complaint on the Ukraine scandal. Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson will leave his job in 30 days and, in the interim, will be on interim leave. No successor has been named. I previously stated that I believe Atkinson was wrong in his interpretation of the law (as later found by the Justice Department). However, I believe that this is a mistake and undermines the system of whistleblower protections as well as the Inspector General system. Without a specific basis for the action, it appears retaliatory and it is certainly unnecessary. As noted below, there could be a legitimate concern over the interpretation of this law in the future if Atkinson was defying the Justice Department’s conclusions. Yet, that was not cited as the basis for the termination.

I have long resented how administrations often wait until Friday night to bury stories that they do not want to be covered. That was the case with Atkinson’s firing. On Friday night, President Trump informed Congress: “As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as President, have the power of appointment … 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.”

When Trump removed figures like Alexander Vindman after the impeachment, I thought it was gratuitous and unnecessary (he was leaving within the month). However, I could understand working with Vindman would be difficult. This is different.

Atkinson was wrong in his interpretation of the complaint failing within the statutory scheme for reporting to Congress. While the inspector general concluded that this allegation fell within the whistleblower law, the Justice Department has a good faith basis to reject his interpretation. That law is intended to address mismanagement, waste, abuse or a danger to public safety by intelligence officials. The president is the ultimate intelligence authority, and there is little support to argue that a discussion between world leaders should be viewed as a subject of this law. After all, any intelligence official could claim that a president undermined national interests in discussions with another world leader. Trump has been denounced, perhaps correctly, for disclosing classified information to foreign figures, but he has total authority to declassify information for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all.

I believe that Atkinson should have yielded to the legal judgment of the Justice Department on the interpretation of this law. I further believe that Trump had a legitimate complaint about the use of the law to cover such high-level communications. Yet, this was obviously a matter of good-faith disagreement. I understood the bind that Atkinson felt in deciding whether to report the complaint to Congress. He decided to err on the side of transparency, which is generally a good predisposition for any government official. Moreover, whatever mistake was made on the legal interpretation, it does not warrant this action. Atkinson did what he honestly thought was right for the country and I have seen nothing to suggest a political or vindictive motive.

Moreover, Atkinson’s firing undermines the independence of the Inspector General’s office and its key function in our system. It is also damaging to President Trump. Rather than take the high road and move his Administration beyond the scandal, Trump will appear as vindictive and retaliatory. To take the action in the middle of a pandemic also makes the President look petty and distracted.

What concerns me the most is that there was no reason given for firing Atkinson other than a “loss of confidence.” No one questions the right of a president to fire high-ranking officials on that basis, but it seems to reaffirm that this is being done in retaliation for his decision that he had to inform Congress of the complaint. The position of the White House would be stronger if the Inspector General was asserting that he would continue to report such complaints to Congress on calls with heads of State. Such a position would defy the legal interpretation of the Justice Department, which historically is given deference on the meaning of federal law. There was no indication that Atkinson had indicated that he would defy that interpretation. If he did, the Administration should make that position clear.

Atkinson was widely respected and was appointed by Trump to this position after a distinguished governmental career.

Tom Monheim, a career intelligence professional, will be named acting inspector general for the intelligence community. It is vital that President Trump fill this position as soon as possible.

401 thoughts on “Trump Fires Intelligence Community Inspector General Who Informed Congress Of The Ukraine Whistleblower Complaint”

  1. “Atkinson did what he honestly thought was right for the country” but did so having knowingly subverted the intention of whistleblower law. Considering the costly and unnecessary political gamesmanship that ensued, any president would fire him.

    1. No, he did what he preferred for the political faction he preferred. So did Vindman, Ciaramella et al. These men aren’t as skeevy as Adam Schiff, but they do not belong in the positions they’ve occupied and have an inflated sense of their own importance.

  2. That mug shot of IG Michael Atkinson that JT used, spooked me…A little

    The IG image looks like Private Bradley Manning before his sex change operation.

  3. Let’s wait to read his testimony to Schiff until we cast judgment perhaps? Oh right, we will never be allowed to. Why is that?

  4. ” I previously stated that I believe Atkinson was wrong in his interpretation of the law (as later found by the Justice Department).”

    We don’t need incompetence in government so firing him was a great idea. It would even be better if he could be dismissed from the bureaucratic labor force. Unfortunately Professor it seems you prefer incompetence in government then dealing with the problems of appearance.

    1. It wasn’t incompetence. The man is a scam artist. He was implicated in shenanigans at the DoJ, so it’s difficult to imagine how he could have been tapped for such a sensitive position. The real incompetents have been working at the White House personnel office.

      1. DSS, I don’t disagree with you but Turley’s complaint was essentially about incompetence. Trump has been faced with this problem throughout his Presidency. His Roladex had the names of people that dealt in the private sector building things. He had to rely on people many of whom didn’t like him because of his outsider status and many came from those that surrounded the Bush family and at least early on were suspicious of Trump.

        All of this demonstrates that the deep state exists. Scamming is just part of what many do and others act even more brazenly by stealing from the nation. I hope in his second term there is a big win for Republicans that are independent of the deep state so that new laws and rules can be put in place to rid our government of this type of scum.

        1. The moderator is so absorbed in legal-formal discourse that he commonly makes observations that are obtuse and twee. It’s perfectly obvious why Trump fired this man and why the man bloody well deserves firing and worse. But, in order to understand that, you have to quit thinking like you’re preparing some sort of legal brief and actually look at what he did.

          Again, this man’s function was oversight. We rely on auditors to be scrupulous. And here, we discover the auditor was untrustworthy. That man’s law license should be history. (While we’re at it, so should Andrew Weissmann’s).

          1. Absurd, during the Impeachment Trial, Republicans acknowledged the Quid pro quo but argued it didnt rise to impeachment. But at the same time Republicans aggressively opposed any witnesses at said trial.

            These facts seem to validate Atkinson’s concerns. He felt the Quid pro quo was worth examination and at least half the country agreed with him. What’s more, Republican opposition to witnesses suggests that Trump defenders were not keen to let examination venture beyond the basic premise.

        2. What we really need is a refoundation of the civil service system. One that would have the following principles:

          1. Hiring and promotion is regulated by examination results. Examinations are competitive and written by occupational psychologists, not judges. There are no preferences for any ascribed group. Examinations are timely and held with 120 days of a vacancy appearing, or the position disappears. Examination results are in the mail to aspirants within 10 days.

          2. Civil servants can be docked, demoted, and laterally transferred by supervisors subject to quick-and-dirty review by outside hearing examiners.

          3. If three people in a civil servant’s chain-of-command countersign a letter of dismissal, a civil servant is dismissed. If he’s near the top, one or two signatures will do. Such dismissals can be subject to post-termination review in which a civil servant and his counsel present evidence to a hearing examiner that the dismissal was consequent to one of a half dozen impermissible reasons. If the examiner finds probable cause, a full dress hearing is to be had in front of a different panel. If the panel – per a preponderance of the evidence – that the dismissed employee’s claim has merit, said employee is indemnified and may apply for other positions. In said circumstance, the matter is thus referred to an outside ombudsman. The ombudsman may bring charges against a different panel contra the officials who signed the termination order. If the panel determines they abused their authority, they are dismissed from service and debarred from applying for government positions for six years. The half-dozen impermissible reasons would be for retaliatory firings contra whistle-blowers, contra extramural political dissidents, contra people punished for making use of guaranteed fringe benefits, contra people fired for religious affiliation, contra people fired for racial / ethnic reasons.

          4. Compensation for public employees is transparent. The pay stubs list a stated compensation. From that is deducted a charge for employee perquisites (which are tracked scrupulously and amortized over the whole body of eligible employees); a charge for the employee’s medical insurance (which has a deductible scalable to the size of the household covered – 1 person, 2 persons, or > 2 persons and which is calculated as a % of his compensation, but not to fall below or rise above a given dollar value in any given year); a similar charge for l/t care insurance if offered; a sequestration for the employee’s retirement account, which shall be a minimum of 15% of stated compensation for ordinary employees and 30% for those earning early-retirement credits; FICA; with-holding for state and federal income taxes; withholding for unemployment compensation; with-holding for s/t disability insurance, earnings related; with-holding for care-givers insurance, earnings related.

          5. Employer’s provision above and beyond that incorporated into the stated compensation will be (a) workman’s compensation insurance; (b) a portion of the bill for unemployment compensation; a portion of the FICA bill on a par with what applies to private sector employers and (c) certain veteran’s benefits. That’s it.

          6. To elaborate: employee medical and l/t care benefits are financed out of employee compensation and only employee compensation. Ditto perquisites. They are structured as a % assessment which has an annually-adjusted upper and lower bound. A similar assessment is made on retirees for Medigap insurance. The pool of assessments finances the insurance programs. Essentially, the government auctions off to insurance companies the franchise to insure blocs of federal employees and retirees. The sealed bids the companies present are the deductible they propose to require for the duration of the contract – $x for a single person, $2x for a two-person configuration, $3x for all others. Uncertainty is borne by insurers and households, not the government.

          7. As noted, veteran’s benefits – rehabilitation care, vocational training in house, scholarships, medical care in house, medical insurance, long-term care, l/t care insurance, and cash transfers – are separate from the ordinary run of compensation for the civil service and the military and provided by the employer by discretion.

          8. Collective bargaining is absolutely verboten. The function of public sector unions is to act as mutual aid societies – operating credit unions, providing insurance, and maintaining labor lawyers on retainer. That’s it.

          9. Mean stated compensation per worker of any government would not exceed that of private sector employees within a certain geographic region. The only exception would be for autonomous self-financing government corporations, which would be limited to industry-specific compensation levels. No single employee could receive regular compensation in excess of the 96th percentile of the regional labor market. A government could add a special bonus. Any and all such bonuses could only be awarded for a year at a time, and each award would require a public hearing and a roll call vote of the legislative body in question, and would only pass with a majority of the elected measures. That municipality in California caught paying their city manager $450,000 a year could do just that, but the extra $200,000 would have to be voted on every year and every municipal councillor who wanted it would have to go on the record approving it. And, of course, it would come out of the hide of other municipal employees, because mean compensation per worker would be fixed.

          1. Though I may not agree with all your ideas that you bring to the table I find a lot of them have merit.

            “1. Hiring and promotion is regulated by examination results.”

            If I remember correctly ancient China had similar problems and Confucianism became linked to a better process of government in China.

            “Compensation for public employees is transparent. ”

            Go to I can’t spell the founder’s name.

            I would recommend a much smaller bureaucracy where most are not permanent government employees so they filter through the private sector.

            1. I would recommend a much smaller bureaucracy where most are not permanent government employees so they filter through the private sector.


              1. For all the bloat, public employees still constitute but 14% of the workforce, and the over-whelming majority (80% or so) are state and local employees.

              2. A great deal of work in the public sector has no private sector analogue. Start with the military, the police, the tax collectors, the parks department, and (to a degree) the public works department. These are legitimate life-careers.

              3. Obvious targets for reductions in force are as follows:

              a. The U.S. Postal Service. Affordable mail deliveries to remote locations can be had through the distribution of subsidies through a competitive bidding process. If you transfer some employees to a residual postal agency which produces the stamps, lets out the contracts, and defines the delivery zones; transfer the inspection service to a federal police department; and take action to repair the retirement system (which is going to have to be bailed out), you can auction the service off and have private postal delivery. UPS, FedEx, DHL, and the private U.S. Postal Service can do the job.

              b. The Bureau of Land Management. You have to contrive a compensation formula for current holders of grazing permits (and lobbyists will be there in force to try to ensure the government pays excessively while the lawfare artists will try to tie things up in court). If you can get that done, you can auction their landholdings off. About 12% of the land area of the United States is supervised by that agency.

              c. The Forest Service. A federal constitutional amendment (ora series of state amendments) which prohibits governments from laying and collecting property taxes on woodlands would be helpful, as such introduces a bias in favor of deforestation. If you can get that done, you can auction about 90% of their inventory off. About 2% is old growth and can be transferred to the Fish and Wildlife Service. The firefighting service can be trasnferred to a federal civil defense department.

              d. The National Park Service. About 80% of their individual properties can be deeded to state park services. You keep multi-state parks and trail systems and you keep a few crown jewels, and the rest is devolved. The field employees can be incorporated into the workforce of the state services.

              e. The Fish and Wildlife Service. Some preserves can also be turned over to state services or to philanthropies like the Nature Conservancy.

              f. The Department of Education: assign the assessement and statistical collection services to the Department of Labor, create a new agency which regulates interstate vendor to consumer transactions between education providers and their customers. and shut the rest of the department down.

              g. The Department of Housing and Urban Development: assign the regulatory bureau concerned with lead paint to the EPA, make some elaborations on the EITC to attend to the real income of impecunious households, and shut the department down.

              h. The rural development apparat at the Department of Agriculture. Pork. Shut it down.

              i. The Food and Nutrition Service. Again, make some elaborations on the EITC, and shut it down.

              j. Miscellanous grant-distributing agencies. Here and there fish out some bits and pieces (e.g. the polar programs office of the National Science Foundation). Otherwise, shut them down. That’s the NSF, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasthing, &c.

              k. Amtrak: again, it was the regulatory regime government railroads and the thumb placed on the scales in favor of road transport which was the problem. These deficits can be corrected by financing Interstate maintenance through road tolls and by placing an excise on motor fuels which is distributed to dedicated funds at the state and local level. The dedicated funds would be devoted to road maintenance, full stop. When you do that, and have corrected deficiences in Amtrak’s retirement programs, you can put it on the auction bloc.

              l. The NIH. They do in-house work and they distribute grants. End the grants.

              m. The CDC. Again, end the grants and break it into it’s components. One part to a federal trusteeship for statistical agencies, one part to a federal department concerned with overseas development and relief, and one part to a federal department concerned with civil defense. The remainder you can shut down.

              n. The EPA. End the grant distribution. Send the environmental works projects to the Interior Department, and send the regulatory functions to a new health-and-safety department.

              o. HHS: break it up into about 10 pieces. The 10th piece is the one you shut down. One part can go to a health-and-safety regulator, another part to a department assembling NASA and other in house research services, one part to a ‘big welfare’ department, one part to a ‘small welfare’ department, &c. Among the programs to be terminated would be TANF and LIHEAP (again, an elaboration on EITC would be due). Anything that undertakes or finances hands-on social work should go, unless its a specialty clientele like military families or reservation Indians.

              p. The federal highway program. Again, tolls and fuel excises, distributed on a per-acres-of-macadam bases to state and local funds. As a general rule, grants to local government should be limited to indemnities and to payment-in-lieu-of-taxes. Grants to state governments should be in the form of unrestricted revenue sharing.

              q. Federal financing of higher education: limit it to scholarships for (1) federal employees in training, (2) family members of itinerant federal employees (the military, the Foreign Service), (3) aspirant federal employees on internship, (4) reservation Indians, (5) residents of the smaller insular dependencies, (6) veterans, as part of their separation benefits. No loan guarantees either, and limit the special protection creditors get in bankruptcy court

              r. state government corporate welfare. Get rid of all of it. No more ‘investment funds’, property tax abatements, tax free bond issues, &c

              s. Local schools. General primary and secondary education can be provided by voucher-funded philanthropies. You have to clearly segment the market though. You can have schools financed by tuition along side schools financed by vouchers, but no school which takes vouchers should be able to charge tuition or fees. Residual state schools would be those service niche clientele, or warehousing incorrigibles.

              t. state higher education. Bloat is everywhere. Bad financing systems are everywhere. Time to lance that carbuncle and squeeze the pus out.

              NB, federal law enforcement remains understaffed and maldeployed. We need to scarify the federal criminal code and quit impinging on state authority. Instead, manpower needs to be deployed to inherently federal responsibilities, like border control and immigration enforcement. The manpower of the IRS is also maldeployed, because the tax code is badly written.

              1. I would include reducing state governments as well. I do not think it healthy for too many people to be permanent public employees. Then of course you make my point in a to t. Add to that some changes in hiring and firing along with adjustments of salary and extra salary perks and my comment may not be necessary.

                1. Public employees per se are not your problem. Their unions can be a problem. The conspiracies between unions and politicians can be a problem. Attack your real problems. Your problems have as their locus politicians.

                  1. DSS, without the public employees there are no public employee unions. If you want to attack real problems one should start with the size of government and the expansion of the bureaucracies. We need more federalism not less. We need less government spending not more.

  5. There was no whistleblower. There was a political hack who took adulterated politically biased interpretations of something his friend’s friend might have heard. Then Mr. Atkinson avoided taking his concern to the correct institution and went right to his political friends in COngress.

  6. It amazes me how often you defend then “but” the matter. This man changed the rules in order to accept and file the complaint. That had nothing to do with a dilemma regarding whether to or not to submit the complaint.

    This man and a frivolous complaint put the country through pain and suffering because Vindman, along with his fellow coup members, hated the President,

    Wake up Turley, stop making excuses for haters! You state he misinterpreted the law but fail to state HE CHANGED the rules in order to file the complaint. Doesn’t sound like any misinterpretation, rather an accomplice.

    You state the President looks petty and vindictive, well WHO WOULD BLAME HIM? This President works day and night FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE! You honestly and with a straight face can’t say that for all the “Never Trumpers.”

    Fire them all. Let this President do his job………….now on to Phase 3: Independent Bipartisan (yeah, right) Commission to investigate the President’s response to Covid19. As bipartisan as Clyburn? Really?

    Who’s going to investigate Congress for consuming their time on retaliatory investigations of the President that took precious time in THEIR RESPONSE to Covid19?

    ANSWER: Not a single soul!

  7. The following has been remarked (by ‘iowa1’):

    Specifically, IG Atkinson, as the IG for the IC, investigated a complaint that never touched the intelligence community. He did this investigation, after the CIA refused to investigate, for the singular reason that the complaint never touched on the CIA operation, conduct, or spending. Atkinson did his investigation after the CIA refused…because of Legal opnions of the CIA office of legal counsel, and the White House office of legal counsel, in conjunction with DoJ office of legal counsel. All these legal opinions pointed out the “whistle blower” was not attached to the IC, and the conduct had nothing to do with the IC. The “whistle blower” was directed to the State Dept IG, or the White House IG.
    The problem then became that ONLY the IC IG’s are required by law to forward whistle blower complaints to congressional intelligence committees.

  8. Loss of confidence is enough. All the nonsense they all created. I will have fired him a lot sooner.

  9. Definition of whistleblower = Anyone with second or third hand information with an axe to grind.

  10. In the early days of the Founding Fathers, up until not that long ago, a traitor would have been shot or hung. Those methods seemed to have worked fabulously

    What a glorious sight it would be: Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Jerold Nadler, Adam Schiff, Charles Schumer, Kamala Harris, Diane Weinstein, …..

    The Democrats fawn over the leaders of Communist Countries like China so we should try their “disappear” tactics on infidels with overwhelming Democrat support.


  11. Based on the comments so far, Professor, you now know what it feels like when the world is a tuxedo and you’re a pair of brown shoes.

    1. It is absolutely retaliatory and absolutely proper. Oversight officials have to be scrupulously neutral, scrupulous about the boundaries of their remit, scrupulous about procedure, and scrupulous about evidentiary standards. He was not.

      Partisan Democrats like Martha Nelson fancy it’s the business of the permanent government to harass the opposition while maintaining the pretense of political neutrality. Which is why in a just and well-ordered society, people like Martha Nelson have no influence.

  12. Pres. Trump has every right to fire Deep State/Never Trumper Atkinson. He was disloyal, broke the rules, worked with Schiff’s failed coup. Glad Atkinson is gone. Trump needs to finally sweep out the moles, disloyal, spies and etc. Bye Bye Atkinson

  13. Corrupt, incompetent and vindictive – the senile strikes again. As we watch a great republic turn into a banana version, Turley’s justification – which would be laughable of not coming from someone with a public face goes like this usually: I wish he didn’t do it but then again that guy was not so good either and as proof I can site the AG found him bad too. What is left out in this is of course the corruption of the AG’s office.

    The only hope is the moron will be gone in a few months. That is only if he allows as election at all.

    1. Turley is in AG Barr’s pocket. They are good friends. AG Barr is twisting logic and the law like a pretzel to support Trump.

      Much of what Turley writes effectively amounts to soft propaganda for Trump (even though Turley likely would deny that this is his intent). This post is no exception. Ostensibly this post criticizes Trump, but the criticism is done in a way that effectively supports both Barr and Trump.

    2. “The only hope is the moron will be gone in a few months. That is only if he allows as election at all.”

      Hutom could be a foreign name but is more likely a scrambled bunch of letters based on the word mouth.

      Better to have a smaller mouth and a bigger brain.

  14. The POTUS has to have 100% confidence in his staff. An error like this is beyond just a simple misinterpretation. Based on the swamp in DC there is probably underlying reasons. Trump was right. There is pure hate and corruption against POTUS and deeper consideration should have been applied to IG decision, such as investigation into whistleblower, which was public knowledge of his political affiliation with Schumer.

    1. The IG isn’t on his staff, or the Attorney-General’s staff, or the DNI’s staff. The IG is properly detached. The problem with this IG, is that he engaged in political gamesmanship, which should be absolutely verboten.

    1. Atkinson also modified the whistleblower rules to facilitate the outcome

      Which was to impeach Trump and remove Trump from office

      Didn’t we come to learn that the “whistleblower” fiasco was really a scheme in which Atkinson took part in?

      Now Mr Turley…

      Would you want someone like Atkinson working for you in your office who was secretly undermining you and your administration?

  15. Again, this man elected to dispense with his vocation in order to assist members of the permanent government with their games. Not only should he be fired, he should be radioactive. He’s a high class version of a crooked beat cop.

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