Nunes Reveals House GOP Probe of Intelligence Community Inspector General Atkinson

January 7, 2020 Updated: January 7, 2020

WASHINGTON—House Select Committee on Intelligence ranking minority member Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and other Republicans on the panel are investigating Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) Michael Atkinson’s role in the whistleblower complaint that led to President Donald Trump’s impeachment by House Democrats.

“The Republicans have an active investigation into Atkinson,” Nunes said Jan. 6 during a podcast interview on the “Sara Carter Show.” Carter noted that the investigation hadn’t been previously reported.

“We’ve mentioned it, but people have just sort of ignored it and, of course, we don’t have subpoena power to bring Atkinson back in,” Nunes told Carter. “But he’s got serious questions to answer for, because I believe that he either lied to Congress or he really needs to correct his statements.”

Nunes was referring to Atkinson’s secret testimony in 2019 before the Intelligence committee during hearings called by the chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

Atkinson told lawmakers about an anonymous whistleblower’s written complaint regarding Trump’s July 25, 2019, telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The whistleblower wasn’t a witness to the call, during which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate claims that a server containing digital copies of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s personal email were being held by unknown person(s) in Ukraine.

Based on what he claimed to have been told by others in the White House who were listening to the call, however, the whistleblower said Trump also told Zelensky that Ukraine wouldn’t receive promised U.S. military aid if he didn’t investigate the role of Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden, with a Ukrainian natural gas firm.

House Democrats claim Trump was using his office for personal benefit in seeking the investigation, in hopes that it would damage Joe Biden, a potential rival to the president’s reelection effort in the 2020 campaign.

Schiff, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) have refused to make public the whistleblower’s name.

Schiff also has refused to make public the transcript of Atkinson’s Oct. 4, 2019, closed-door testimony before the Intelligence panel. Nunes and other Republican committee members were present for the ICIG’s testimony, but aren’t permitted to discuss it publicly since it is classified.

“We really do need to hear from the whistleblower,” Nunes told Carter. “That needs to happen … Everyone needs to see that testimony, and the reason that it’s not being released is because it’s very damaging, not only to the whistleblower, but also to Atkinson himself.”

Nunes declined to provide additional details about what the Republican probe of the ICIG has found, saying, “I’m not going to go any further than that because you know, obviously, he has a chance to come in and prove his innocence, but my guess is Schiff, Atkinson, they don’t want that transcript out because it’s very damaging.”

Nunes also told Carter that he, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Intelligence panel member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) wrote to Atkinson in 2019 asking why he expedited the whistleblower’s complaint despite that it was based on hearsay and second-hand information.

The ICIG “gave us a very typical IC response, which is to not answer the question. Three years ago, that might’ve worked. It doesn’t work with us anymore,” Nunes told Carter.

Atkinson, who is a career government employee, was nominated for the ICIG post by Trump in November 2017.

“Mr. Atkinson has served as an Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Senior Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General (AAG) of the National Security Division (NSD) of the Department of Justice (DOJ) since 2016,” the White House said in announcing Atkinson’s nomination.

As senior counsel, Atkinson was in a key position advising then-AAG John Carlin, a major player in the DOJ/FBI “Operation Crossfire Hurricane” probe of allegations of collusion between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian interests.

The probe was severely criticized in a recent report by the DOJ inspector general for filing questionable applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court to spy on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page.

Prior to the senior counsel position, Atkinson was an assistant United States attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia from 2006 to 2012. He then became deputy chief of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section until 2015. He was the section’s acting chief from 2015 until 2016.

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