The president has weighed getting rid of the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, because he provided the whistleblower complaint to Congress that sparked the impeachment inquiry, four people familiar with the discussions told the Times.
Trump was reportedly upset when the whistleblower report was published in September and has considered firing the inspector general more recently because he does not understand why Atkinson shared the complaint, one source told the Times.
The whistleblower report detailed how Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate unfounded corruption allegations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son days after withholding military aid from the country.
Trump has blasted the inspector general on Twitter and indicated that he thinks Atkinson should have to testify in the impeachment inquiry alongside the whistleblower.
It is unknown how far the consideration of firing Atkinson went, with two sources telling the Times they thought Trump was just venting and not talking about serious consequences for the inspector general.
Inspector generals are supposed to remain independent from partisan beliefs and provide objective accountability.
People close to Trump told the Times that they thought removing Atkinson could damage the president going into the impeachment proceedings; his firing of Comey led to the appointment of former special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate his campaign’s alleged ties to Russia.
Atkinson originally reported the whistleblower complaint to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, who refused to turn over the document to Congress but allowed the inspector general to inform Congress that the complaint existed. Eventually, Maguire handed over the whistleblower report, which was made public at the end of September.
Lawyers for Maguire and the Justice Department maintain that because the president is not a part of the intelligence community, Atkinson had no authority to send the report, according to the Times.
I recommend that Nervous Nancy Pelosi (who backed up Schiff’s lie), Shifty Adam Schiff, Sleepy Joe Biden, the Whistleblower (who miraculously disappeared after I released the transcript of the call), the 2nd Whistleblower (who also disappeared), & the I.G., be part of the list!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2019
The Times’s report comes the day before the first public impeachment hearings. The initial testimony from former and current Trump officials took place behind closed doors.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.