Even though the Wuhan virus pandemic continues to suck up virtually all the news coverage, Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself) got distracted long enough to slam President Trump for something different: the firing of Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) Michael Atkinson.
If you’ve followed ICIG Atkinson’s story in my newsletter and have read the linked-to reports from Sean Davis, John Solomon, Sara Carter and Margot Cleveland, among others, you know Atkinson richly deserved the boot. Of course, Democrats described his unceremonious canning as Trump’s payback for Atkinson passing along the bogus report of “whistleblower” ERIC CIARAMELLA to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s office and kicking off the impeachment. What they don’t mention is all the reasons his actions were flagrantly wrong and termination-worthy.
Margot Cleveland has another great piece in THE FEDERALIST that will refresh your memory on the details, which I’m sure have been fresh in President Trump’s mind for a long time. Recall that when Atkinson received the complaint from CIA official CIARAMELLA concerning a phone conversation Trump had had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he accepted the nine unsubstantiated pages as worthy of forwarding to the then-acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire, maintaining to the DNI that this complaint fell within the statutory provisions of the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act.
Under the act, the complaint was supposed to be forwarded within seven days to the House and Senate Intel committees and the complainant was supposed to have whistleblower protection. But this complaint doesn't fall under the act, and that’s why I refuse to pretend it does and will specify the name ERIC CIARAMELLA any time I want, typically using capital letters just to make the point. CIARAMELLA was “outed” long ago; everyone knows his identity and I won’t play the we-don’t-know-who-the-whistleblower-is game.
When Maguire received the complaint from Atkinson, he didn’t think it fit the whistleblower statute and consulted the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel. They issued a detailed opinion stating that the complaint indeed did not fit the statute. To fit, the complaint needed to accuse the President of misconduct relating “to the funding, administration, or operation of an intelligence activity,” and that’s not what this was at all. Also, the Director of National Intelligence does not have “responsibility and authority” over Trump. The DOJ lawyers ruled that the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Act did not apply.
They also said that Atkinson should refer his complaint to the Department of Justice, not give it to the intelligence committees. Atkinson ignored this, went around Maguire and the DOJ and sent a letter to Adam Schiff telling him about the complaint. Schiff responded by going to Maguire and demanding he provide the House Intel Committee with the complaint, though doing so would violate executive privilege because it involved presidential communications. Maguire said he couldn’t do that.
Schiff had a big schiff-fit about that and implied that the President was behind Maguire’s refusal to turn over the complaint. Trump responded by declassifying not only the complaint but the transcript of the phone call that prompted it, showing the complaint to be a huge pack of lies.
But they impeached him, anyway.
Oh, there’s much more. To cite just one more example, recall that it was discovered there had been some “stealth editing” of the whistleblower complaint form by someone in Atkinson’s office to delete the stated requirement that for a complaint to be considered “credible,” the whistleblower must possess “first-hand information.” CIARAMELLA had not one speck of first-hand information, as he was not even on the phone call he was complaining about. But the altered complaint form paved the way for him to submit his complaint anyhow. Atkinson knew the rules; unless he were in on the scheme, how could he not determine that a hearsay complaint such as this one would not be considered credible?
Perhaps we could find out more about what Atkinson was doing to coordinate with Schiff’s office and otherwise set up Trump for a phony impeachment, but according to Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton he was “evasive to the point of being insolent and obstructive” in front of the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee. And in the House, Schiff continues to block release of the transcript for “Witness 18,” who is Atkinson. That’s right, even after all this time and the release of all 17 of the other transcripts, this one is still being held back. (And, of course, CIARAMELLA, with his bogus “whistleblower” protection, never had to come forward and testify at all.)
It seems that President Trump could declassify Atkinson’s testimony and call for it to be released. Perhaps he will, but that will probably come later. I understand he’s got a lot on his plate right now.