Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent a letter to Trump on Wednesday seeking information on why he fired the inspector general.
The senators note that laws regarding the intelligence community inspector generals require that the president lay out his reason for removing the official 30 days before doing so.
“However, in your recent letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee, you stated only that, ‘it is vital that [you] have the fullest confidence’ in those serving as IGs and that ‘this is no longer the case’ with regard to Mr. Atkinson,” the letter read.
It continued, “Further, according to public reports, Mr. Atkinson already was placed on administrative leave, effectively removing him from his position prior to the completion of the statutorily required notice period.”
The senators said that it is “not sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the statute” for Trump only to say that he lost confidence in Atkinson.
They explained, “This is in large part because Congress intended that inspectors general only be removed when there is clear evidence of wrongdoing or failure to perform the duties of the office, and not for reasons unrelated to their performance.”
Additionally, the senators argued that by reportedly placing Atkinson on leave and firing him before the dates laid out in the law, Trump “effectively removed that IG and appears to have circumvented Congress’s role in this process.”
The senators asked Trump to provide further information on why he decided to fire Atkinson by April 13.
“As supporters of the Inspector General community, and as advocates for government transparency and accountability, it is our responsibility to confirm that there are clear, substantial reasons for removal. To that end, we ask that you provide more detailed reasoning for the removal of Inspector General Atkinson no later than April 13, 2020.”
On Friday, Trump notified Congress that he would remove Atkinson from his position in 30 days.
He defended his decision during a press conference at the White House, saying, “He took a fake report, and he brought it to Congress.”
Atkinson was responsible for handling the whistleblower complaint that kicked off House Democrats’ impeachment probe of Trump last year.
The senators are not the only ones looking into Trump’s decision to fire Atkinson, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said he would investigate Atkinson’s removal, as IJR previously reported.