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Nadler and Schiff Call for Probe Into AG Barr’s Defense of Trump’s Atkinson Firing

Rep. Adam Schiff (left) and Rep. Jerry Nadler hold a news conference in Washington, D.C., January 21, 2020. (Mary F. Calvert/Reuters)

Representatives Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) and Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.) requested that Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz investigate attorney general William Barr for defending President Trump’s decision to fire the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (ICIG) Michael Atkinson.

In a Monday letter, the heads of the House Intelligence and House Judiciary committees accused Barr of violating Department of Justice “policies and rules of professional conduct” during an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham earlier this month, in which he said the president “did the right thing” in firing Atkinson, who filed the whistleblower complaint that dealt with Trump’s conduct on a call with the Ukrainian president and touched off the president’s impeachment.

“From the vantage point of the Department of Justice, he had interpreted his statute, which is a fairly narrow statute, that gave him jurisdiction over wrongdoing by intelligence people and tried to turn it into a commission to explore anything in the government and immediately report it to Congress without letting the executive branch look at it and determine whether there was any problem,” Barr explained.

Schiff and Nadler said that Barr “blatantly mischaracterized” the firing, and suggested he was “justifying the President’s retaliatory decision to fire Mr. Atkinson.”

“To the contrary, Mr. Atkinson faithfully discharged his legal obligations as an independent and impartial Inspector General in accordance with federal law,” they argue.

The two point to “the coordinated efforts” between the DOJ and the White House to keep the whistleblower complaint from being reported, as part of Barr’s “disturbing pattern of misrepresenting facts and falsely alleging misconduct by other government officials in order to defend the President’s own misconduct.”

Following initial news of the whistleblower complaint in September, Schiff threatened to sue the White House for access to the complaint, explaining that “we have not spoken directly with the whistleblower.” In October, The New York Times revealed that the whistleblower had communicated with Schiff’s staff before submitting the formal complaint.

Schiff and Nadler, who in October warned that Barr’s elevating of John Durham’s Russiagate probe amounted to “a vehicle for President Trump’s political revenge,” also cite U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton’s decision last month for the DOJ to hand over an unredacted Mueller Report, over “grave concerns” about Barr’s “objectivity,” as further proof of bias.

“Public confidence in our system of justice depends on the integrity, fairness, and impartiality of DOJ’s leadership,” they close. “It is, therefore, imperative that the Attorney General be held to the same high standard expected of all Department personnel, particularly in matters involving the President’s own interests.”

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