April 9 (UPI) -- A bipartisan group of senators has demanded President Donald Trump provide a detailed explanation on his decision to fire the intelligence community's inspector general.
Led by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the eight senators from both parties called on Trump in a letter dated Wednesday to provide further explanation behind his decision to fire Michael Atkinson, who oversaw the whistleblower complaint that led to the president's impeachment in December.
On Friday, Trump notified Congress in a letter that he was firing Atkinson as he no longer had confidence in him and would later nominate a replacement.
"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."
In the Wednesday letter, the senators said that a loss of confidence in an inspector general is not sufficient to fulfill the statute of the law that requires the president to inform the Senate and House intelligence committees 30 days prior to the removal of an inspector general.
"Congress intended that inspectors general only be removed when there is clear evidence of wrongdoing or failure to perform the duties of the office, and not for reasons unrelated to their performance, to help preserve IG independence," said the letter, which was signed by Grassley and Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Mark Warner, D-Va.; Mitt Romney, R-Utah; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; and Jon Tester, D-Mont.
The senators also raised issue with Trump placing Atkinson on paid administrative leave, effectively removing him from his watchdog role prior to the 30-day expiration.
"The senators also reiterated the purpose for the 30-day notice to Congress: to provide an opportunity for an appropriate dialogue with Congress in the event that the planned transfer or removal is viewed as an inappropriate or politically motivated attempt to terminate an effective inspector general," the senators wrote. "By placing the IG on 30 days of administrative leave and naming an acting replacement, the administration has already effectively removed that IG and appears to have circumvented Congress' role in this process."
Atkinson became embroiled in Trump's impeachment proceedings as he notified Congress last year of a whistle-blower complaint accusing Trump of having threatened to withhold military aid from Ukraine unless it publicly announces a corruption investigation into his main political rival former Vice President Joe Biden.
A day after Atkinson's firing, Trump told reporters that he felt the man he appointed to the position in 2018 had done "a terrible job. Absolutely terrible."
Asked if he consulted with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell before removing Atkinson, Trump replied it was his decision to remove him.
"That man is a disgrace to IGs," Trump said. "...He's a total disgrace."
In their letter, the senators asked Trump to provide his explanation by no later than Monday while also providing his reasoning on how implementing an active official to the position prior to the end of the 30-day notice comports with statutory requirements.