…but not unexpected. That phrase gets a lot of exercise when we’re talking about the behavior of Comrade Donald Trump. The president’s response was irregular, but not unexpected. The president’s comments were undiplomatic, but not unexpected. It’s a nice way of saying ‘Yeah, as usual, Trump is being an asshole’.
Friday evening, Trump announced he was firing Michael Atkinson, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community. In his letter, Trump stated, “[I]t is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General. That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.”
What’s actually vital to Trump is that everybody in his administration MUST be willing to publicly support whatever crazy-ass thing Trump wants to do. Anybody who disagrees or challenges him has to go. When it comes to following the law or following Trump, the law has to step aside.
Atkinson followed the law. When he received a complaint from a whistleblower in the intelligence community about Trump’s communications with the president of Ukraine, he had an obligation to determine if the complaint was credible and urgent. He decided it was, so he notified Congress — which is exactly what he was legally required to do.
From that moment on, Atkinson’s career in federal government was doomed. He followed the law instead of ‘protecting’ Trump. Same thing happened to James Comey, to Andrew McCabe, to Jeff Sessions (who actually deserved to be fired, but for other reasons), to Col. Alexander Vindman (and even his brother, for fuck’s sake, whose only sin was to be born a twin). Trump attempted to fire Robert Mueller, but couldn’t. All of that was wildly inappropriate. But not unexpected.
Trump didn’t fire Atkinson just to be vindictive. He’s also sending a message to other Inspectors General — including the newest one. That new two-trillion dollar stimulus package? One reason it was delayed was Democrats insisted the bill include a Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery — somebody to monitor how the Treasury Department hands out the loans and loan guarantees to businesses. Somebody whose job was to keep Trump corruption to a minimum. The bill also states the new IG MUST notify Congress IMMEDIATELY if the Trump administration withholds information requested by investigators. Because if there’s one thing we know for certain about Trump, it’s that he’s going to pull some sort of nasty-ass scam and then refuse to answer any questions about it.
Trump really really didn’t want a new IG to oversee the stimulus loans, but eventually he had to give in. At least in theory. But this is Comrade Donald Trump (remember in the last paragraph we said he’d pull some nasty-ass scam? Here we go.). In addition to signing the bill, Trump also issued a signing statement…you know, to ‘clarify’ how he interprets the bill. He told Congress he intended to treat the “requirement to consult with the Congress regarding executive decision-making” as “hortatory but not mandatory.” Yeah, I know…there’s no way Trump knows what ‘hortatory’ means. But basically Trump is saying he’s going to consider that ‘requirement’ to just be an earnest suggestion, which he can ignore if he wants to. He also said he won’t “treat spending decisions as dependent on prior consultation with or the approval of congressional committees,” which is a nice way of saying he intends to hand out the money to whoever the fuck he wants to and Congress can kiss his ass. He ends his signing statement by saying, “my Administration will continue the practice of treating provisions like these as advisory and non-binding.” This, in essence, is Trump making farting noises in the direction of Congress.
With that signing statement and the firing of Atkinson, Trump is basically telling the new stimulus IG, “Dude, you’re just there for show. Stay quiet, don’t ask too many questions, don’t interfere, just sit in your office, look out the window, and continue to cash those sweet sweet government checks. Or say goodbye to your career and your pension, because, dude, you know I will fire your ass in a skinny minute.”
What Comrade Trump is doing is borderline illegal, immoral, pathologically unethical, utterly reprehensible, and corrupt as fuck. But not unexpected.