Monday 19 August 2019

US intelligence boss quits after fraught two years

US director of national intelligence Dan Coats
US director of national intelligence Dan Coats

Zeke Miller

Dan Coats, the US director of national intelligence, will leave his job next month, President Donald Trump has said, after a turbulent two years in which they were often at odds over Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mr Trump announced Mr Coats's departure on August 15 in a tweet which thanked him for his service. He will nominate Republican Representative John Ratcliffe to the post and name an acting official in the meantime. Mr Ratcliffe is a frequent Trump defender who fiercely questioned former special counsel Robert Mueller during a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week.

Mr Coats often appeared out of step with Mr Trump and disclosed to prosecutors how he was urged by the president to publicly deny any link between Russia and the Trump campaign. The frayed relationship reflected wider divisions between the president and intelligence agencies.

Mr Coats's public, and sometimes personal, disagreements with Mr Trump over policy and intelligence included Russian election interference and North Korean nuclear capabilities. Mr Trump had long been sceptical of the nation's intelligence agencies, which provoked his ire by concluding Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election with the goal of getting him elected.

In a letter of resignation, Mr Coats said serving as the nation's top intelligence official has been a "distinct privilege" but that it was time for him to "move on" to the next chapter of his life. He cited his work to strengthen the intelligence community's effort to prevent harm to the US from adversaries and to reform the security clearance process.

A former Republican senator from Indiana, Mr Coats was appointed director of national intelligence in March 2017, the fifth person to hold the post since it was created in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001 to oversee and co-ordinate the US's 17 intelligence agencies.

Mr Coats was among the last of the seasoned foreign policy hands brought in to surround the president, of whom he steadily grew tired as he gained more personal confidence in the Oval Office, officials said. They included Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and, later, national security advisor HR McMaster.

His departure had been rumoured for months, with intelligence officials expecting him to leave before the 2020 presidential campaign season reached its peak.

Irish Independent

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