A powerful pair of House Democrats are calling on the Justice Department inspector general to investigate the Attorney General William Barr’s recent comments about the firing of Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, the Hill reported.
In a letter Monday to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz and acting Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility Jeffrey Ragsdale, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) accuse Barr of deliberately mischaracterizing Atkinson’s conduct.
Specifically, they are asking for a review of Barr’s claim that Atkinson ignored a DOJ opinion and therefore deserved to be removed.
“In a televised interview on April 9, 2020, Mr. Barr blatantly mischaracterized Mr. Atkinson’s conduct and the DOJ’s own actions relating to the complaint filed last summer by an Intelligence Community whistleblower,” the two wrote in the letter.
The so-called whistleblower is widely believed to be CIA operative Eric Ciaramella, a member of the anti-Trump resistance in the deep state who was also reportedly involved in the Russia hoax. Atkinson is also tied to that the FBI’s corrupt investigation into the Trump campaign.
During an interview with Fox News’s Laura Ingraham earlier this month, Barr referred to an opinion issued by DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) regarding the “whistleblower” complaint. “[Atkinson] was obliged to follow the interpretation of the Department of Justice and he ignored it,” Barr said. “I think the president was correct in firing him.”
Trump finally fired Atkinson earlier this month. He had served as the intelligence community inspector general since May of 2018.
Schiff and Nadler characterized Atkinson’s termination as a “retaliatory decision” on Trump’s part. “Mr. Barr’s misleading remarks appear to have been aimed at justifying the President’s retaliatory decision to fire Mr. Atkinson,” the Democrats wrote.
Although the OLC did not consider Ciaramella’s allegations to be urgent and credible, Atkinson sent two letters to the House Intelligence Committee demanding immediate attention to the bogus complaint.
That gave congressional democrats their excuse to launch an impeachment inquiry, which culminated with Trump’s acquittal in a Senate impeachment trial on February 5.
As part of his impeachment charade, Schiff interviewed Atkinson in the House Intel Committee’s basement bunker, but never made the transcript of that interview available to the public. According to Texas congressman John Ratcliffe, the transcript exposes both Ciaramella and Schiff in a lie.
“It’s because I asked IG Atkinson about his ‘investigation’ into the contacts between Schiff’s staff and the person who later became the whistleblower,” Ratcliffe explained in a tweet last November. ” The transcript is classified ‘secret’ so Schiff can prevent you from seeing the answers to my questions.”
Senators also met with Atkinson behind closed doors last year, but his lack of candor so riled Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), he sent a follow-up letter to Atkinson insisting on answers to 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.
In February, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the ranking Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, issued the stark warning to Atkinson, giving him a Feb. 14 deadline to comply with past congressional requests for information and documents, or he would refer his handling of the “whistleblower’s” complaint to the Justice Department.
“I will be referring this matter for investigation by the Department of Justice if you once again refuse to comply,” Nunes, R-Calif., wrote in the letter.
After Trump fired the IC watchdog, Horowitz, who is the chairman of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, however, released a statement saying Atkinson was well-respected among his peers.
“Inspector General Atkinson is known throughout the Inspector General community for his integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight,”‘ Horowitz said. “That includes his actions in handling the Ukraine whistleblower complaint, which the then Acting Director of National Intelligence stated in congressional testimony was done ‘by the book’ and consistent with the law.”
Nunes wrote in his own statement: “Intelligence Committee Republicans have repeatedly stated our concerns about the abnormalities in Atkinson’s handling of the Ukraine whistleblower complaint, and during our investigation, he failed to alleviate any of those concerns.”
In their letter to Horowitz, Schiff and Nadler argued that Barr was wrong about Atkinson.
“In maligning Mr. Atkinson and falsely portraying him as insubordinate, Mr. Barr misrepresented DOJ’s legal opinion concerning the whistleblower complaint,” they wrote.