President Trump on Wednesday lashed out at the intelligence community inspector general over his handling of a whistleblower complaint raising alarm over Trump’s conversations with Ukraine.
In a series of tweets, Trump described the whistleblower complaint and related controversy as a “hoax” and a “scam.”
Trump also questioned Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) Michael Atkinson’s handling of the complaint and asserted that Atkinson “should have never let it start.”
“Why doesn’t the ICIG do something about this Scam? He should have never let it start, a Dem Hoax!” Trump tweeted Wednesday.
Why doesn’t the ICIG do something about this Scam? He should have never let it start, a Dem Hoax! https://t.co/UCbObppWbA
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2019
Trump criticized Atkinson, whom the president appointed to the position, while seizing on reports that the anonymous whistleblower previously had a professional relationship with one of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.
Trump has sought to discredit the whistleblower’s complaint and attack the individual, whose identity remains unknown to the president and the public, as a “partisan” amid revelations about the complaint, which caused House Democrats to launch an impeachment inquiry.
Atkinson has been at the center of the controversy since receiving the whistleblower’s complaint. He was initially prevented by the administration from sharing details of the complaint with Congress.
Atkinson testified before Congress last week behind closed doors.
The Washington Examiner and Axois both reported recently that Atkinson disclosed to Congress during that private session that the whistleblower had a previous professional relationship with one of the 2020 Democratic candidates.
In a letter from Atkinson alerting the acting intelligence chief to the whistleblower complaint in August, the inspector general disclosed that an initial review identified “some indicia of an arguable political bias” related to the whistleblower’s allegation but that Atkinson nevertheless deemed the complaint to be credible.
Trump’s criticism of Atkinson marks a new front in his efforts to dispute the allegations in the whistleblower complaint and House Democrats’ ensuing impeachment inquiry.
Atkinson, a former Justice Department prosecutor, was confirmed to the position in May 2018 after being tapped by Trump for the inspector general role. He has earned broad praise from members of Congress from both parties.
The whistleblower raised alarm over a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during which Trump asked Ukraine to investigate unsubstantiated corruption allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate.