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Trump nominates former Nunes aide as intelligence community inspector general

President Donald Trump intends to nominate Allen Souza as the next inspector general for the intelligence community after firing the previous inspector general, Michael Atkinson, in April.

Trump had fumed about Atkinson for months after he informed Congress about the whistleblower complaint regarding Trump’s dealings with Ukraine that ultimately led to his impeachment.

A former aide to California Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Souza currently works for the National Security Council under Robert O’Brien.

This spring the Trump administration purged several inspectors general from their posts and rejected requests from Republicans for more information on the removals.

“When the President loses confidence in an inspector general, he will exercise his constitutional right and duty to remove that officer, as did President Reagan when he removed inspectors general upon taking office and as did President Obama when he was in office,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in May when asked by GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley about the removals of Atkinson and the State Department inspector general.

After announcing the President’s intention to nominate Souza, the White House almost immediately sent his nomination to the Senate on Wednesday.

Souza was a lawyer for the House Intelligence Committee under Nunes in 2017 and 2018, while the committee was conducting its GOP-led Russia investigation that was engulfed in partisan fights. Republicans on the panel issued a report saying they had no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow — as well as raising questions about the intelligence community’s assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to aid Trump’s campaign, a conclusion that the Senate Intelligence Committee affirmed.

Souza became the GOP staff director of the committee in 2019, when the intelligence panel was ground zero for House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. During those hearings, Republicans attacked an anonymous whistleblower complaint made to the intelligence community inspector general about Trump’s call with the Ukrainian President, which had sparked the impeachment proceedings.

Senate Democratic sources immediately raised concerns with Souza’s nomination. One source familiar with his record questioned his qualifications for the role, while another said his resume on Trump’s NSC and as a Nunes aide was “troubling.”

Another source familiar with Souza’s record and experience called him “an intelligence community insider” who comes from the National Security Agency camp, noting that Souza had a reputation among some in the intelligence community as an NSA “guy” on Nunes’ staff.

A former official from the intelligence community inspector general’s office said the organization has been “wandering for many years, lacking support throughout the community since Chuck McCullough left,” referring to the inspector general from 2011 to 2017.

“Atkinson was an outsider, and remained an outsider, throughout his term,” the official said. “The Souza confirmation hearings need to review the office performance, 2017 to 2020, so Congress can understand whether to reform the office, or not.”

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

CNN

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