Maine’s two U.S. senators on Saturday protested the firing of the intelligence community inspector general who told Congress about a complaint from a whistleblower that eventually led to President Trump’s impeachment.

Trump fired Michael Atkinson late Friday.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that Atkinson’s dismissal “will create a vacuum of professional, honorable and objective judgment in a position explicitly designed to be independent and clear-eyed.”

“Furthermore,” he continued, “the late-Friday timing and motivations outlined in this announcement are concerning, and I will be pursuing more answers and clarity in the days ahead – including whether and how much of this news is more political than policy-oriented.”

King also said the firing sends the wrong message to those in the intelligence community whose goals are “to seek the truth and speak the truth.”

“When speaking the truth leads to potential retribution, we know less and are at increased risk,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, noted in a statement that inspectors general are “vital partners” in rooting out inefficiency and fraud in government. She said that while the president followed the correct procedures in notifying Congress of the firing, “I did not find his rationale for removing Inspector General Atkinson to be persuasive.”

“While I recognize that the President has the authority to appoint and remove Inspectors General,” she said, “I believe Inspector General Atkinson served the intelligence community and the American people well, and his removal was not warranted.”

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