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Donald Trump fires Inspector-General Michael Atkinson, who sparked the US President's impeachment

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday he had every right to fire the inspector general of the U.S. intelligence community who was involved in triggering an impeachment probe of the president past year.

He did not elaborate, except to say that "it is extremely important that we promote the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of federal programs and activities", and that an inspector-general is critical to those goals.

Atkinson was the intelligence community inspector general whose communications to Congress about a whistleblower complaint helped initiate the Ukraine impeachment inquiry against the president.

"At a time when our country is dealing with a national emergency and needs people in the Intelligence Community to speak truth to power, the President's dead of night decision puts our country and national security at even greater risk", he added. Trump was impeached by the Democrat-led House, but the Republican led Senate acquitted him in February. "That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general".

Michael Horowitz, the inspector general at the Justice Department, said Mr Atkinson was known for his "integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight".

The whistle-blower complaint handled by Atkinson, which was eventually released publicly, revealed that Trump had asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a July phone call to investigate the Bidens.

"This retribution against a distinguished public servant for doing his job and informing Congress of an urgent and credible whistleblower complaint is a direct affront to the entire inspector general system", House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement Friday night.

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"This will be the end of oversight if Trump gets away with this", said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan independent watchdog.

Pelosi called Atkinsons' dismissal "shameful", saying his firing will have a chilling effect against whistleblowers. "So he's decapitating the leadership of the intelligence community in the middle of a national crisis".

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a vocal Trump advocate during the impeachment probe, mocked Schiff for being upset about Atkinson's firing, calling him Schiff's "key impeachment enabler".

The statute requires that both intelligence committees be notified by the president 30 days before the date of the inspector general's removal.

Schiff's remark about Trump "decapitating" the intelligence community also took in the recent departure of acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire, who was controversially replaced by Trump loyalist Richard Grenell.

His removal is part of a larger shake-up of the intelligence community under Mr Trump, who has always viewed intelligence professionals with scepticism. "We should all be deeply disturbed by ongoing attempts to politicize the nation's intelligence agencies". So by selecting Mr. Ratcliffe again, Mr. Grenell can stay for up to 210 days while Mr. Ratcliffe weaves his way through the Senate confirmation process, and for another 210 days if Senators reject Mr. Ratcliffe's nomination.



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