As impeachment remains stalled for now, Democrats in the House of Representatives still refuse to release the closed-door testimony of a key witness in the concocted drama: Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community.
Atkinson, you may recall, launched the impeachment saga when he determined that the accusations by the “whistleblower” about Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president last summer were so alarming as to deem the complaint a matter of “urgent concern.” (It wasn’t.)
Atkinson sent two letters to the House Intelligence Committee demanding immediate attention to the bogus complaint.
“I have not been authorized to disclose . . . basic information to you, in addition to the important information provided by the Complainant that is also being kept from the congressional intelligence committees,” Atkinson warned September 17, a week after the U.S. aid had been released to Ukraine.
As part of his impeachment charade, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) interviewed Atkinson in his secret lair; it is the only transcript out of 18 that Schiff won’t make public.
Senators also met with Atkinson behind closed doors last year. But his conduct riled Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who sent a follow-up letter to Atkinson with several questions that Atkinson had refused to answer.
“Your disappointing testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on September 26 was evasive to the point of being insolent and obstructive,” Cotton wrote on October 6. Cotton was specifically concerned about Atkinson’s unwillingness to disclose his knowledge of the “whistleblower’s” political bias.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the ranking Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News this week that House Republicans are investigating Atkinson for his handling of the “whistleblower” complaint and possible coordination with Schiff’s staff. More on that in a moment.
But congressional Republicans might consider first exploring Atkinson’s own political bias and his likely involvement in the original plot to destroy Donald Trump: The FBI’s corrupt probe into Trump’s presidential campaign.
Atkinson is tied to that investigation and to the president’s July 2019 phone call that now serves as the Democrats’ latest excuse to remove Trump from office.
A report issued last month by Atkinson’s counterpart at the Justice Department, Michael Horowitz, offered a detailed account of how that agency, specifically the FBI, violated the law to obtain a warrant to spy on Carter Page for a year. Horowitz identified 17 “significant errors” on the initial application and three subsequent renewals submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The office responsible for the government’s FISA process is the Justice Department’s National Security Division. The head of the NSD during the first several months of the secret surveillance on Carter Page was acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord.
McCord’s senior counsel? Michael Atkinson.
From July 2016—the same month the FBI opened its investigation into the Trump campaign—until he was appointed the intelligence community’s watchdog in early 2018, Atkinson served as a high-ranking official in the same Justice Department attempting to take down Donald Trump.
McCord, an Obama appointee and Atkinson’s boss for seven months, not only managed three of the four FISAs on Carter Page, she ran the department’s investigation into Trump-Russia collusion until she resigned in the spring of 2017.
McCord is mentioned more than two dozen times in Horowitz’s report. She became the division’s acting chief right before the department approved the first FISA application on Page.
Atkinson was her lawyer.
According to the Horowitz report, McCord “was involved in certain aspects of the [Trump campaign] investigation . . . with the first Carter Page FISA application in September and October 2016.” McCord also attended numerous briefings related to Crossfire Hurricane, the official name of the FBI’s counterintelligence probe into four Trump campaign associates.
McCord, who was interviewed by Horowitz, told the inspector general she informed Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director, that the first FISA application “needed to include more information about who hired [Christopher] Steele.” She recalled “asking about Steele’s fee arrangement with Fusion GPS” just days before the first application was filed on October 21, 2016. (An interesting detail since McCord unconvincingly claimed in a podcast interview last month that she didn’t see Steele’s dossier until it was published in BuzzFeed in January 2017, a common trope recited by Obama loyalists.)
But that wasn’t McCord’s only communication with the disgraced former FBI chief. According to Horowitz, “McCord told us that she spoke to McCabe almost every day on various matters and had more than one conversation with him about the Carter Page FISA application.” (McCord has indicated she would defend McCabe if he goes to trial for lying to his own FBI.)
Shortly after Rod Rosenstein was sworn-in as deputy attorney general in April 2017, McCord and former FBI Director James Comey briefed Rosenstein on the ongoing Russia investigation. The meeting, according to McCord, also was attended by “several” other people from the FBI and National Security Division.
Now, what is the likelihood that her chief counsel, Michael Atkinson, was uninvolved in any aspect of either the Page FISA warrant, the Trump campaign probe, or the Russian election interference investigation? Atkinson was not some low-level employee or staff attorney; he worked directly for the law enforcement official tied to all three.
In fact, a Washington Post profile of Atkinson included praise from McCord, who said she had “worked closely” with the now-inspector general. The pair also worked together for years at the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C.
McCord had her hand in another plot to sabotage Trump. Shortly after Trump took office, McCord accompanied former deputy attorney general Sally Yates to alert Trump’s White House counsel that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn allegedly lied to administration officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. That initiated the bogus Logan Act case, prompting Flynn’s firing in February 2017.
Since leaving the administration, McCord, like all other Obama officials, has been an outspoken foe of President Trump. She fully supports impeaching the president.
“I think people do see that this is a critical time in our history,” she told Politico last month. “We see the breakdown of the whole rule of law. We see the breakdown in adherence to the Constitution and constitutional values.” McCord is a contributor to the Trump-hating blog, Lawfare.
Republicans have many questions for Atkinson and since, astonishingly, he remains in public office, he should be forced to answer those queries. Last September, Nunes, along with Rep. James Jordan (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) sent a lengthy letter to Atkinson demanding to know when and why he changed the official form to allow hearsay on the complaint.
But the American public needs to know more about Atkinson’s past ties to the same agency and same culprits who launched the phony Russian collusion scheme. Did he handle the FISA applications on Carter Page? What did he know about the initial counterintelligence probe into Trump’s campaign? Did he counsel McCord prior to her meeting with the White House lawyer about Michael Flynn? Did he attend the April 2017 briefing with Comey and Rosenstein?
Has he had any communications with McCord since she left the Justice Department? Did he work with Special Counsel Robert Mueller? Did he communicate with any of the other bad actors, such as Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, James Baker, or Bruce Ohr? Did he ever meet Christopher Steele?
Once we have the answers to those questions, the remaining inquiries about his involvement in the “whistleblower” report as a pretext to finally oust Donald Trump from power might answer themselves. Last I checked, Senate Republicans controlled powerful committees that could compel Atkinson’s testimony. His involvement is central to any Senate impeachment trial: Republicans should make Michael Atkinson their first witness.