Attorney General William Barr said the president was right to dismiss the intelligence community inspector general who handled the anonymous whistleblower complaint that prompted a partisan impeachment against the president last year.
"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 reported to Congress without letting the Executive Branch look at it and determine whether there was any problem," Barr said during the interview.
Atkinson played a central role in the series of events leading up to the impeachment effort against Trump last year. He vetted the anonymous whistleblower complaint and determined that it should be forwarded to Congress as a matter of urgency. The complaint contained allegations about Trump's conduct during a phone call with Zelensky last July.
The whistleblower, whose name has not been released, admitted in the complaint that he or she was “not a direct witness to most of the events described” but had received the information from "colleagues’ accounts," which he or she found credible.
House Democrats used the complaint as a basis to accuse Trump of leveraging his office and withholding U.S. aid to Ukraine to obtain “dirt” on a political opponent—2020 Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden.
A transcript of the call, which was released by the White House shortly after the allegations were made, revealed that Trump had asked Zelensky to "look into" Biden’s dealings in Ukraine but hadn’t pressured him or used any quid pro quo in the call. Trump has repeatedly described the call as "perfect."
Trump was eventually impeached in December by the House of Representatives, which no House Republican voted in favor of, and a few House Democrats voted against. He was acquitted by the Senate earlier this year.
“He’s a total disgrace,” Trump said. “That’s my decision. I have the absolute right.”
During the interview on Thursday, Barr also said that he was troubled by the findings from the ongoing investigation into the FBI's counterintelligence investigation on Trump's campaign during the 2016 presidential election, which is led by U.S. Attorney John Durham.
“My own view is that the evidence shows that we’re not dealing with just the mistakes or sloppiness,” Barr said. “There was something far more troubling here. We’re going to get to the bottom of it. And if people broke the law and we can establish that with the evidence, they will be prosecuted.”