U.S. President Donald Trump told Congress on Friday that he has fired Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general (ICIG) who first notified lawmakers of a Ukraine complaint that ultimately led to the president's impeachment.
In a letter made public late Friday by U.S. media, Trump informed the Senate and House intelligence committees that he is removing Atkinson from his duties.
"This is to advise that I am exercising my power as President to remove from office the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, effective 30 days from today," Trump wrote.
Trump said "it is vital" that he as the president has "the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspector General. That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General."
Atkinson reported to Congress in September about a Ukraine complaint he had received from an anonymous intelligence official, who expressed concerns that Trump's dealings with Ukraine amounted to soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. election and undermined U.S. national security.
The complaint triggered the impeachment investigation into Trump led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.
The president was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House on Dec. 19 by two articles of impeachment accusing him of "abuse of power" and "obstruction of Congress," respectively. He was acquitted on Feb. 5 as the Senate, where the Republicans hold the majority, concluded its impeachment trial.
"Trump's dead of night decision to fire ICIG Michael Atkinson is another blatant attempt to gut the independence of the Intelligence Community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing," Schiff, a California Democrat, tweeted Friday in response to Trump's letter to Congress.
"It puts our country and national security at even greater risk," he added.
Atkinson was nominated by Trump in November 2017 after serving 16 years at the U.S. Department of Justice.
The ICIG conducts investigations and reviews of activities within the purview of the Director of National Intelligence, while handling whistleblower complaints from within the intelligence community.