Top Democrat accuses Trump of ‘purging’ the intelligence community

Top Democrat accuses Trump of ‘purging’ the intelligence community

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is conducting a “purge” of the intelligence community, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee says in a letter obtained by NBC News that echoes concerns raised by his House counterpart.

In the letter to acting DNI Richard Grenell, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia expresses dismay about the recent firing of the inspector general of the intelligence community. That move came on the heels of Trump ousting the director of national intelligence and his deputy, and the head of the National Counterterrorism Center and his deputy.

“You explicitly committed to us that you were undertaking a review of ODNI, but that we should “[Re]st assured that this review is not an effort to purge … the ODNI, as some have erroneously suggested,'” Warner wrote in the letter, dated April 9. “However, a mere 10 days later, that is exactly what is occurring.”

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Warner asked Grenell whether Trump consulted with him about the firing of Inspector General Michael Atkinson, which the president later said was because of Atkinson’s handling of the whistleblower complaint that sparked Trump’s impeachment.

Click here to read Warner’s letter

“By his actions and the reforms he had undertaken at the office of the ICIG, Mr. Atkinson demonstrated an unwavering commitment to empower those who witness potential waste, fraud, or abuse,to come forward,” Warner wrote. “His firing now leaves no Senate-confirmed leaders in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. What message do you believe this conveys to the American people in terms of the importance of leading and overseeing intelligence in support of our national security?”

Inspector General Michael Atkinson arrives for a closed-door hearing in Washington on Oct. 4, 2019.Eric Baradat / bioreports via Getty Images file

On Tuesday, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, sent Grenell a similar letter, accusing Grenell of “undermining critical intelligence functions.”

Click here to read Schiff’s letter

Schiff asked Grenell whether the termination of Atkinson was intended to impede any ongoing investigations.

A spokeswoman for the ODNI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Image: Ken DilanianKen Dilanian

Ken Dilanian is a correspondent covering intelligence and national security for the NBC News Investigative Unit.

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