President Trump informed Congress late Friday that he intends to fire Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson after a mandatory 30-day period but also said he was placing Atkinson on immediate administrative leave. "Inspectors general are traditionally removed for 'cause' — usually involving misconduct," The Washington Post notes. "In Atkinson's case, there was no apparent misconduct. Rather, Trump said in a letter to Congress on Friday night that it was 'no longer the case' that Atkinson had his 'fullest confidence.'"
In a press conference Saturday, Trump strongly suggested he was sacking Atkinson for informing Congress about the Ukraine whistleblower complaint that, once largely confirmed, led to Trump's impeachment. "I thought he did a terrible job, absolutely terrible," Trump told reporters. "He took this terrible, inaccurate whistleblower report and he brought it to Congress." Atkinson released an unusual statement Sunday night defending his handling of the Ukraine matter and saying "it is hard not to think that the president's loss of confidence in me derives from my having faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and impartial inspector general."
Democrats and some Senate Republicans criticized the late-night sacking, and Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general and chairman of a council of federal inspectors general, said Atkinson was known by his peers for "integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight," including "his actions in handling the Ukraine whistleblower complaint, which the then-acting director of national intelligence stated in congressional testimony was done 'by the book' and consistent with the law."
Trump also announced Friday night he intends to nominate a White House lawyer, Brian Miller, as special inspector general for a $500 billion coronavirus relief fund and replace Glenn Fine, the well-regarded acting inspector general of the Defense Department, with Jason Abend, a senior policy adviser at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Horowitz had tapped Fine as inspector general of the entire $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue package. Peter Weber
President Trump's replacement of acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, a respected career official in a historically nonpartisan role, with U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell, a vocal Trump loyalist with scant intelligence or management experience, raised eyebrows and some amount of alarm in Washington. Along with Maguire, acting Deputy DNI Andrew Hallman and ODNI General Counsel Jason Klitenic are heading for the exits. These aren't isolated moves.
"The president has been focused lately on officials who are allegedly disloyal to him, particularly at the Justice Department, the National Security Council, the Pentagon, and the State Department," The Washington Post reports, citing Trump aides. "And has heard from outside advisers that 'real MAGA people can't get jobs in the administration,' in the words of an administration official."
It's important to remember what "loyalist" means here, Adam Serwer writes at The Atlantic. "Public officials swear an oath to the Constitution, not to Donald Trump. The purged officials were removed for their disloyalty to the latter, not the former." In other words, "if you don't agree with the king, you're gone," Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) told The Daily Beast. "That has a chilling effect on people being willing to tell the truth, and that makes us less safe." Peter Weber
The Turkish government on Sunday fired and canceled the passports of some 18,000 civil servants, about half of them police officers, alleging ties to terrorist organizations. Another 6,000 are members of the military, and many of the remaining 3,000 are teachers and professors.
The move comes shortly before President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to lift the two-year national state of emergency imposed following a failed coup in 2016. About 160,000 Turkish civil servants have been similarly purged since the coup attempt, and 50,000 of them have been charged and jailed. Bonnie Kristian