House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff is sending up a warning flag to see if Donald Trump will continue his run of firing and replacing various inspectors general watchdogs in the regime with loyalists, Trump has already fired two in the last five days. Greg Sargent:
After President Trump fired the inspector general of the intelligence community, he didn’t bother disguising his true reason for doing so: because that IG had conducted his lawful duties in a manner that resulted in Trump being held accountable for his misdeeds and corruption.
As Trump himself put it, Michael Atkinson, the fired IG, had done a “terrible job.” How so? Easy: Atkinson had evaluated the whistleblower complaint exposing Trump’s Ukraine shakedown scheme with procedural correctness.
“He took a fake report and he brought it to Congress,” Trump said. That’s what Atkinson was supposed to do, and the complaint turned out to be almost entirely accurate, leading to Trump getting justly impeached over the extraordinary misconduct that came out as a result.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) just announced that the House Intelligence Committee, which he chairs, will be examining Trump’s firing of Atkinson. And buried in Schiff’s letter making this announcement is an unsettling glimpse of where all this could be going.
hiff’s letter, which is addressed to acting director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, expresses Schiff’s concern that Grenell is politicizing that office on Trump’s behalf, noting that every Senate-confirmed person in the DNI has been removed.
Schiff’s letter argues that Atkinson “acted with the highest integrity and remarkable professionalism,” while being subjected to a campaign of attacks by Trump and his allies simply for adhering to his oath of office.
Notably, in the section announcing the investigation of Atkinson’s dismissal, Schiff calls on Grenell to confirm in writing whether he ever exercised his “authority” to “prohibit” any other “investigation, inspection, audit, or review” that Atkinson might have undertaken.
Schiff’s letter also calls on Grenell to stipulate in writing that he “will not permit retaliation or reprisals against anyone who has made, or in the future makes, protected disclosures of misconduct.”
Who might make such reprisals against such protected disclosures? Why, one Donald J. Trump, of course.
Those are very suggestive moves by Schiff. They in effect throw down the gauntlet and challenge Grenell not to stipulate to those things.
Ned Price, a former senior National Security Council official and CIA analyst, told me that if Grenell refuses to make these stipulations — which is plausible if not likely — it will underscore how abnormal this administration truly is.
“His decision not to answer would be incredibly telling,” Price said.
Price added that a failure on Grenell’s part to state that he hadn’t interfered in any other ongoing investigations, or a refusal to pledge to defend employees in the future, might signal a willingness to allow Trump to proceed with a “campaign of retaliation.”
Putting Grenell on the spot is the right move, but it's not like House Dems have been able to do much to actually keep Trump from continuing his retribution campaign. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could use a "phase 4" COVID-19 bill to deliver oversight, but Trump has already said he'd completely ignore the oversight put in the third COVID-19 bill.
Trump continues to have the full support of the Senate GOP, who have already said that Trump has every right to dismiss any and every inspector general working "for him".
“Obviously those people serve at the pleasure of the president and as is usually the case, it’s not something that we have any control over,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the GOP whip. “The president made it pretty clear why he did. But he has the prerogative. We don’t always have to agree with his actions. As we’ve learned in the past he’s going to do what he’s to do.”
Thune said it was too early to assess whether the firing was unwarranted: “I want to talk to the people who are close to it and get some context on it. I don’t understand it at this point. But that’s a question for another day when I can figure out what went into it.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who presided over a pro forma session of the Senate on Monday morning, also said more information was needed.
“I think we should get more detail. I agree with that,” she said. “It’s such an odd time it’s hard to say how we’re going to get that info — I mean, you know what kind of priority that information is going to have — but I think that’ll all come out.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a top Trump ally, said he was more consumed with reforming the foreign surveillance courts than Atkinson’s firing. But he also made clear it didn’t trouble him, either: “I don’t necessarily have any issues with it.”
“My view is that this is the president’s decision, it’s a decision that’s his to make. It doesn’t give me enormous heartburn,” Hawley said in an interview on Monday. “It’s not the main issue.”
Trump will continue to use COVID-19 to destroy democracy. The GOP Senate will let him do whatever he wants.
Nobody can or will stop him.