President Trump took time out from his response to the pandemic to fire Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community. Atkinson was responsible for vetting the whistleblower report that broke the Ukraine scandal. The Washington Post reported that Trump sent a letter to Congress Friday night informing legislators that he intends to fire Atkinson within 30 days.
“It is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general,’’ Trump said in the letter. “That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general.”
Trump hired Atkinson for the IG job in 2017 but has considered firing him several times since the news of President Trump’s controversial phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky broke last September.
Presidents often announce controversial decisions on Friday afternoon to avoid bad press. In normal times, people don’t pay attention to political news n weekends. However, in the midst of a deadly pandemic with 95 percent of the country sheltering at home, many Americans will be watching the news on Saturday. Atkinson’s firing will likely bump the Coronavirus death toll from the top story spot at least temporarily.
Ironically, the pandemic had caused the Ukraine scandal and impeachment to fade from the public memory. Impeachment concluded with an acquittal for the president on February 5. It was only two months ago but it seems like a different lifetime.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently told radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt that the impeachment “diverted the attention of the government” from the looming threat of Coronavirus. However, the president is apparently able to multitask while steering the country’s response to the pandemic.
Even if no one else was thinking about Ukraine and impeachment, Mr. Trump was.