Posted by Curt on 6 April, 2020 at 12:57 pm. 4 comments already!


On Saturday, reporters queried President Trump about his Friday firing of Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson. Trump’s response seemingly confirmed the left-leaning press and Democrats’ narrative that the firing was retaliation for the IG informing the House Intelligence Committee of a whistleblower’s complaint. That complaint concerned Trump’s conversation with the Ukrainian president that set in motion Trump’s impeachment.

But what the media and Trump’s political opponents won’t tell you is that Trump is right. Atkinson bestowed on the still-unnamed intelligence officer a “whistleblower status he doesn’t deserve.” “He is a fake whistleblower,” Trump said.

The MSM also won’t report the other troubling aspects of Atkinson’s handling of the fake whistleblower’s complaint, some of which Trump also touched on in the briefing. A full vetting of Atkinson’s handling of the so-called whistleblower’s complaint confirms Trump’s take that Atkinson “did an absolutely terrible job.”

But this does require a deep dive into both the law and the fact, as opposed to a mere mimicking of the Democrats’ talking points that seems the default of today’s lazy journalists. So, here are the details you need to know to fully understand why Trump lost confidence in Atkinson and opted to exercise his presidential power-of-appointment prerogative and replace him.

The Ukrainian Phone Call

On Aug. 12, 2019, a still-unnamed CIA official filed with the ICIG a nine-page complaint that alleged Trump was “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.” The so-called whistleblower complaint relied on hearsay and second-hand information to support its allegations, as well as a bevy of newspaper reports.

The genesis of the complaint was a July 25, 2019, telephone conversation between Trump and the newly elected Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The complaint portrayed Trump’s call with Zelensky as demanding a quid-pro-quo investigation “into the activities of former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter Biden” in exchange for U.S. subsidies to Ukraine.

On Aug. 26, 2019, Atkinson forwarded the supposed whistleblower complaint to the then-acting director of national intelligence (DNI), Joseph Maguire. In forwarding the complaint to Maguire, Atkinson maintained that the allegations fell within the statutory provisions of the Intelligence Community Whistle Protection Act (ICWPA). That statute, if applicable, would have provided both whistleblower protection to the complainant and required the DNI to forward the complaint within seven days to the intelligence committees.

But, as Maguire later told the House Intelligence Committee, “because the allegations on their face did not appear to fall into the statutory framework, the Acting DNI consulted the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel concerning IG Atkinson’s conclusion that the ICWPA applied.” Maguire included the inspector general “in those consultations.”

The Allegations Didn’t Fit the Whistleblower Definition

In a detailed opinion issued on Sept. 3, 2019, the Office of Legal Counsel confirmed that the ICWPA did not apply to the allegations presented to Atkinson under the auspices of a whistleblower complaint. Rather, as the opinion confirmed, the ICWPA only applies to a statutorily defined “urgent concern,” which, for purposes of the complaint lodged against Trump, required the allegations to concern “a serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of law or Executive order or deficiency relating to the funding, administration, or operation of an intelligence activity within the responsibility and authority of the Director of National Intelligence involving classified information but does not include differences of opinions concerning public policy matters” (emphasis added).

But, as the Office of Legal Counsel explained, the complaint against the president did not accuse the president of misconduct related “to the funding, administration, or operation of an intelligence activity.” Rather, the complainant charged Trump with “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election”—an allegation the transcript from the call negated, in any event. Moreover, the DNI does not have “responsibility and authority” over Trump, making the ICWPA further inapplicable to the situation at hand.

Accordingly, the Legal Counsel concluded in a memorandum opinion that, because the “complaint does not arise in connection with the operation of any U.S. government intelligence activity, and the alleged misconduct does not involve any member of the intelligence community,” the ICWPA did not apply.

The Office of Legal Counsel, however, did not leave matters there. “Our conclusion that the ‘urgent concern’ requirement is inapplicable does not mean that the DNI or the ICIG must leave such allegations unaddressed,” it stressed. Rather, “should the DNI or the ICIG receive a credible complaint of alleged criminal conduct that does not involve an ‘urgent concern,’ the appropriate action is to refer the matter to the Department of Justice, rather than to report to the intelligence committees under section 3033(k)(5).” The Legal Counsel then noted that it had referred the complaint to the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice “for appropriate review.”

Atkinson Sidesteps DOJ, Sends to Political Hack

Atkinson ignored the Legal Counsel’s opinion that “the appropriate action is to refer the matter to the Department of Justice, rather than to report to the intelligence committees.” On Sept. 9, 2019, he dispatched a letter to Rep. Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, informing him of the complaint. The following day, Schiff demanded Maguire provide the complaint to the committee—something Maguire could not do because it contained communications protected by executive privilege.

In his letter, Schiff also falsely called the complaint a whistleblower complaint and asserted the acting DNI was withholding it from the committee in violation of his “express obligations under the law.” Schiff then implied the White House had somehow interfered to prevent Maguire from fulfilling his duties.

Predictably, a media firestorm erupted, eventually prompting Trump to waive executive privilege and release a copy of both the complaint and a readout of his call to the Ukrainian president. Months later, on Dec. 18, 2019, the Democratic-controlled House impeached President Trump on an abuse of power charge related to his communications with the Ukrainian ambassador and a charge of obstruction of Congress. The Senate acquitted Trump on Feb. 5, 2020.

Atkinson Didn’t Do Basic Review of the Complaint

In the process, many more details were disclosed about the complaint, the complainant, and Atkinson’s handling of the matter. For instance, declassified documents revealed that Atkinson determined the complaint “appeared credible” even though the complainant “was not a direct witness to the President’s telephone call with the Ukrainian President,” and even though “as part of its preliminary review, the ICIG did not request access to records of the President’s July 25, 2019, call with the Ukrainian President.”

Had Atkinson reviewed the read-out of Trump’s July 25 call, he would have discovered numerous allegations contained in the complaint were false:

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