President Trump on Friday night fired Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community who had deemed “urgent” a whistleblower’s complaint about the president’s actions on aid to Ukraine.
In a letter to the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, the president said “it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general.”
“That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general,” Mr. Trump said.
The president said the firing would take effect in 30 days and he will nominate a new candidate, who must be confirmed by the Senate.
Mr. Atkinson was nominated by Mr. Trump and started in the post in May 2018. In August 2019, Mr. Atkinson received the whistleblower’s complaint alleging that the president had abused his power in soliciting help from Ukraine to undermine Democratic presidential front-runner Joseph R. Biden.
Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, had obtained lucrative work at a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was serving as vice president, getting paid $3 million.
Mr. Atkinson conducted an initial investigation and found the whistleblower’s complaint was “credible” and “urgent,” a decision that started a chain of events leading to Mr. Trump’s impeachment by House Democrats in December 2019. The president denied he had done anything wrong and called it another “witch hunt” by Democrats.
The Republican-led Senate acquitted the president in a trial in February.
Mr. Atkinson had previously served at the Justice Department for 15 years.
Sen. Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said it was “unconscionable that the president is once again attempting to undermine the integrity of the intelligence community by firing yet another an intelligence official simply for doing his job.”
“The work of the intelligence community has never been about loyalty to a single individual; it’s about keeping us all safe from those who wish to do our country harm,” Mr. Warner said. “We should all be deeply disturbed by ongoing attempts to politicize the nation’s intelligence agencies.”
A lawyer for the whistleblower, Mark Zaid, said on Twitter that the firing “is nothing but delayed retaliation taken against independent IG, one who was appointed by President Trump, for proper handling of #whistleblower complaint.”
He called the move “disgraceful.”
Also on Friday night, Mr. Trump announced his intention to nominate Peter M. Thomson of Louisiana, to be Inspector General of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Mr. Thomson is an attorney at Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann, where he co-chairs the firm’s white-collar criminal defense and information security practices. He was a prosecutor at the Justice Department for 23 years and served on special assignment at the National Security Agency.