Donald Trump Fires Inspector General Who Brought Ukraine Phone Call Whistleblower Complaint To Congress
from the just-more-retaliation-targeting-the-proper-channels dept
No one really needs to wait until Friday afternoon to bury bad news. Not these days when bad news is all we seem to have, occasionally mixed with even worse news. But the White House remains the White House, so the time-honored process of dumping stuff you want to stay out of the headlines right before everyone punches out for the weekend remains in place.
The government as a whole claims it wants whistleblowers to report wrongdoing through the proper channels. It then routinely follows this up by ensuring the proper channels remain the best way to see good deeds punished.
The whistleblower that reported President Trump’s inappropriate conversation with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky saw their report buried by the White House’s Office of Legal Counsel. So much for the proper channels. President Trump himself asked for the whistleblower to be outed, undermining the protections the federal government has established to ensure wrongdoing is reported.
The only party receptive to the whistleblower’s complaints has now been fired by President Trump, closing the loop on the White House’s retaliatory actions.
President Donald Trump on Friday fired Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who had told Congress about the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment, the President told Congress in a letter obtained by CNN.
So, there’s another spot open in the administration — one that will probably be filled by an underqualified suck-up, rather than someone who can actually do the job. Trump’s faith in appointees often appears to be directly related to how good they make him look, rather than how well they do their jobs.
“As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as President, have the power of appointment … it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general,” Trump wrote. “That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.”
Atkinson’s response letter is worth reading. It makes it clear his firing was politically motivated and had nothing to do with his ability to carry out his duties.
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.
More of the same from this administration, which isn’t all that different from the actions of the administrations that preceded Trump’s. Whistleblowers get punished. Those aiding whistleblowers in their efforts by following the law are also retaliated against with alarming frequency.
This is what whistleblower laws are supposed to deter. But they’re ultimately toothless, especially when it comes to presidential appointees who can be hired and fired at will. Since the protections only go so far, whistleblowers are likely to be deterred by appointees inhabiting the “proper channels,” who may selectively bury reports to ensure their own employment continues. Those that do pass on information that will displease the administration put their own necks on the line, and that’s the sort of ideal that rarely has a 100% participation rate in Washington, DC.
It would be nice if these protections — and the rules against retaliation — were respected across the board. But they’ll never be. They’ll only be used when they’re politically expedient.