Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley is working with senators on a bipartisan letter demanding that Donald Trump explain his firing of the intelligence community inspector general whose handling of a whistle-blower complaint about Ukraine led to the president’s impeachment.
The letter will reiterate the importance of inspectors general and state that the law requires the president to give more information to Congress on his decision to remove Michael Atkinson, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Trump fired Atkinson late Friday, outraging Democrats and concerning some Republicans. The president made clear he wasn’t happy with either the still-anonymous whistle-blower or with Atkinson, who alerted Congress about the complaint regarding Trump’s demand that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
“He took a fake report and he brought it to Congress, with an emergency, okay?” Trump told reporters Saturday. “Not a big Trump fan — that, I can tell you.”
Grassley has made multiple statements in recent days on the importance of inspectors general, and the senator has sponsored multiple laws protecting whistle-blowers over the years. Earlier Tuesday, he sent a tweet to Trump on inspectors general, after the president’s actions in recent days that removed two inspectors general and criticized a third.
“I encourage Pres Trump 2view IGs as helpers 2hold bureaucracy accountable+draining swamp,” Grassley wrote on Twitter. “We all work to solve problems Esp in unprecedented pandemic, IG reports shld be viewed as a TO DO list & not criticism. Admin is quickly fixing problems that existed going back to Obama/Bush.”
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Grassley also released a statement Tuesday after Trump removed Glenn Fine, the Pentagon’s acting inspector general who was also overseeing the Pandemic Relief Accountability Committee.
“The White House should empower inspectors general so they’re able to do their job, as President Trump did with Inspector General Horowitz and his report on FISA abuse involving the president’s 2016 campaign,” Grassley said.
“The military’s budget is so vast and its management so averse to change, the next inspector general can’t be afraid to hold leadership accountable and fight to protect taxpayers and service members,” Grassley’s statement said.
The senator thanked Fine and said Trump must make a priority of filling inspector general vacancies, while urging senators not to slow the confirmation on non-controversial picks.
Grassley also issued a statement Saturday demanding more details on Atkinson’s firing.
“They help drain the swamp, so any removal demands an explanation,” Grassley said. “Congress has been crystal clear that written reasons must be given when IGs are removed for a lack of confidence. More details are needed from the administration.”
Grassley said in that statement he wants Atkinson’s replacement to focus on investigating abuses of surveillance authorities and preventing leaks of classified information.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a senior Republican on the Intelligence Committee, said in a statement over the weekend that she wasn’t persuaded by Trump’s rationale on Atkinson.
“His removal was not warranted,” she said.
Trump also suggested the manager of the HHS inspector general’s office was biased against him after a report Monday found “severe shortages of testing supplies” at hospitals, widespread shortages of personal protective equipment and “anticipated shortages of ventilators.”
The president tweeted on Tuesday that the report was “Another Fake Dossier!”
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