Demands for Trump to explain recent purge of intelligence staff including watchdog overseeing coronavirus stimulus package

Adam Schiff – who led impeachment inquiry into president's behaviour – calling for answers

Justin Vallejo
New York
Tuesday 07 April 2020 21:27 BST
Trump says somebody should sue whistleblower's 'ass off'

Democrats have requested formal explanations for Donald Trump's recent firings within the intelligence community.

House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff sent a letter on Tuesday to acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Richard Grenell asking if he attempted to prohibit former intelligence community inspector generals from "initiating, carrying out, or completing any investigations, inspection, audit or review."

Intelligence community IG Michael Atkinson, who alerted Congress to the whistleblower complaint that triggered impeachment proceedings, was fired late on Friday night. Glenn Fine, the Pentagon's acting inspector general slated to oversee the $2trn coronavirus stimulus bill, was fired on Monday.

Mr Schiff also requested information about reductions to the staff of the National Counterterrorism Center, including Acting Director Russell Travers and Acting Deputy Director Peter Hall. The letter calls for a written response and any corresponding documentation over the firings to be delivered by 16 April.

"President Trump did not nominate you for confirmation as permanent DNI, and it would be inappropriate for you to pursue any additional leadership, organisational or staffing changes to ODNI during your temporary tenure," Mr Schiff wrote in the letter.

"Any effort, moreover, to remove or otherwise initiate personnel actions against apolitical career officers based on their perceived loyalty to the President would contravene civil service protections."

Mr Grenell took the role of acting Director of National Intelligence in February until the confirmation process of permanent DNI – congressman John Ratcliffe – is initiated.

Mr Schiff – who led the impeachment process against Mr Trump – claims Mr Grenell undermined critical intelligence functions by not consulting Congress about the personell changes made during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Trump addressed the removal of Mr Fine during his daily press conference on Tuesday, saying his administration had a lot of IGs from the Obama era that they left largely unchanged.

"But when we have reports of bias. And when we have different things coming in. I don't know Fine. I don't think I ever met Fine. I heard the name. I don't know where he is. Maybe he was from Clinton, OK? But we did change him. But we changed a number," Mr Trump said.

"We have about seven nominations in I believe. We put seven very, very highly qualified people for the IG position. And that's a decision that I could have made three years ago. And I could have made two years ago. But we're putting seven names. And they're going in now."

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