Inspector General Fired by Trump Urges Whistle-Blowers ‘to Bravely Speak Up’

In his statement, Mr. Atkinson stressed that protecting whistle-blower identities should be a nonpartisan issue and defended his handling of the Ukraine matter as fulfilling his obligations under the law.

Democrats have decried Mr. Trump’s firing of Mr. Atkinson as corrupt. Republicans have largely been silent, although Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and long a defender of whistle-blower protections, has said he wants more “written reasons” about Mr. Trump’s reasoning for removing the inspector general.

The Democratic-controlled House impeached Mr. Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in the Ukraine affair. The Republican-controlled Senate then swiftly acquitted him without hearing witnesses.

A key vote in protecting Mr. Trump from witnesses, Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, said that the evidence proved Mr. Trump did withhold aid from Ukraine for personal political benefits, but said while that was “inappropriate,” it was not an impeachable offense. Several key Republicans said Mr. Alexander’s view was widespread.

Mr. Trump has subsequently been purging federal officials he sees as disloyal because they testified about what they knew when Congress subpoenaed them during the House inquiry phase. Mr. Atkinson became the latest, and Mr. Trump told congressional leaders that he had lost confidence in him.

“It is hard not to think that the president’s loss of confidence in me derives from my having faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and impartial inspector general, and from my commitment to continue to do so,” Mr. Atkinson wrote, saying he was disappointed and saddened by the removal.

By law, the inspector general for the intelligence community cannot be removed until 30 days after Congress has been notified of the president’s intent, but the Trump administration circumvented that limit by also immediately placing Mr. Atkinson on administrative leave.

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