A Perspective on the Man in the Middle: Michael Atkinson
Michael Atkinson, Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, determined that the complaint from an unidentified whistleblower is credible and of urgent national interest. Mr. Atkinson boldly disagreed with the Director of Intelligence, Justice Department and White House Counsel. He notified the House Intelligence Committee of the existence of the complaint.
The actions of Mr. Atkinson launched the current firestorm engulfing President Trump, including formal impeachment proceedings.
The complaint stated that President Trump, in a telephone call with the newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help President Trump’s 2020 reelection bid.
Was Mr. Atkinson politically motivated and/or part of some conspiracy to take down Trump? Did he err in reaching his conclusion?
The quick answer to all of these questions is…no.
Michael and I were housemates at Cornell Law School, Moot Court partners, and buddies. We routinely timed our dinners (separately defrosted) so that we could watch the latest rerun of Miami Vice.
Michael’s decision regarding the complaint was not politically motivated. He was appointed to his position by President Trump. Michael has always been politically conservative, a staunch Republican, which made for occasional banter between us.
He was proud to be an American. As he was a fan of Bruce Springsteen, I can still hear the song “Born in the USA” blasting out of the speakers in his bedroom.
Michael did not seek the limelight…perhaps, unlike his housemate. I was surprised when he agreed to be my partner for the Cornell Moot Court Competition. Moot Court is essentially a debate contest with other classmates in the format of an appeals court hearing. Michael and I advanced to the semi-finals.
Michael works hard and takes his legal career seriously. After our time together at Cornell, he worked his way up to partner at a large DC law firm. He took a significant pay drop when he decided to pursue his passion and work for the Department of Justice. He worked as a trial attorney in the fraud section of the DOJ, and then became the DC Assistant U.S. Attorney General, in the fraud and public corruption section.
If Michael determined that President Trump’s telephone call and the surrounding events, as alleged, constitute a “serious or flagrant problem, abuse or violation of law or Executive order” then they do.
As I told Michael after the story hit the news, “you’re welcome--for teaching you everything you know.” Michael’s humble response was, “it may be premature, even for you, to try to take credit.”