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Trump weighs punishments for intel community's inspector general

Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson did his job. It's why Donald Trump might try to fire him.

It was three months ago yesterday when a whistleblower from the intelligence community filed a written complaint about alleged misconduct committed by Donald Trump and his team. Soon after, Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson reviewed the complaint, found it to be credible, and concluded that it was a matter of "urgent concern."

Or put another way, Atkinson, by and large, did his job. He had a responsibility to evaluate a whistleblower's complaint objectively, gauge its seriousness, and as needed, alert the House and Senate Intelligence committees. That's what Atkinson did.

It's against this backdrop that Donald Trump has reportedly discussed firing Michael Atkinson for having had the audacity to report the whistleblower's complaint, which is what the inspector general was supposed to do. The New York Times reported:

Mr. Trump first expressed his dismay about Mr. Atkinson around the time the whistle-blower's complaint became public in September. In recent weeks, he has continued to raise with aides the possibility of firing him, one of the people said.The president has said he does not understand why Mr. Atkinson shared the complaint, which outlined how Mr. Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate Mr. Trump's political rivals at the same time he was withholding military aid from the country. He has said he believes Mr. Atkinson, whom he appointed in 2017, has been disloyal, one of the people said.Mr. Trump's private complaints about Mr. Atkinson have come as he has publicly questioned his integrity and accused him of working with the Democrats to sabotage his presidency.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote on Twitter yesterday, "It's hard to imagine a clearer abuse of power than firing the Inspector General simply because he did his job and followed the law, instead of covering up accusations of wrongdoing against the President."

It's a timely reminder that in Trump's vision, public service is an amorphous concept. What matters, from the president's perspective, is service to him. Loyalty to the nation and the rule of law are nice ideas, but Trump expects and demands fealty to him and his interests -- above all other considerations.

Atkinson went largely by the book, which, naturally, the president sees as a betrayal. If the rules cut against Trump's interests, then the rules must be ignored.

For what it's worth, even some Senate Republicans are not on board with the president going after Atkinson.

Two Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), are warning President Trump not to fire intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson. [...]Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday said firing Atkinson in response to his actions would not be a wise move.

Whether Trump cares about warnings like these remains to be seen.