President Donald Trump speaks at the coronavirus briefing at the White House on April 4, 2020. Tasos Katopodis/CNP via ZUMA
For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones’ newsletters.During a press briefing on the latest coronavirus pandemic developments Saturday, President Donald Trump saved his most passionate comments for an entirely different topic: His decision late Friday to fire the inspector general who helped spark the president’s impeachment last year.
When Trump notified Congress late Friday night that he was firing Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community, he said only that he did not have full confidence in him. Democratic leaders in Congress immediately suspected the firing was a reprisal for Atkinson’s role in his impeachment, because he had notified Congress about the whistleblower complaint over Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. On Saturday, Trump confirmed their suspicions.
During the coronavirus the press briefing, Trump ripped into Atkinson and the whistleblower. “I thought he did a terrible job,” Trump said of Atkinson’s handling of the whistleblower complaint. “He took a fake [whistleblower] report and he brought it to Congress with an emergency, ok? Not a big Trump fan, that I can tell you.” He continued to stress that his notorious July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine was “perfect,“ as he did throughout the impeachment hearings.
“I have the absolute right” to fire Atkinson, Trump added. Then he pivoted to attack the whistleblower, whom he said should not have been allowed to remain anonymous because he was a “fake whistleblower.”
“They give this whistleblower a status that he doesn’t deserve,” Trump complained, “he’s a fake whistleblower, and frankly someone oughta sue his ass off.”