Monday 26 August 2019

US national intelligence director Dan Coats to step down

The 76-year-old was often at odds with Donald Trump over Russian interference in the 2016 election.

US director of national intelligence Dan Coats (AP)
US director of national intelligence Dan Coats (AP)

By Zeke Miller, Eric Tucker and Deb Riechmann

US director of national intelligence Dan Coats will leave the post next month after a turbulent two years which often saw him at odds with President Donald Trump over Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The US leader announced Mr Coats’ departure on August 15 in a tweet thanking him for his service.

Mr Trump said he will nominate Texas congressman John Ratcliffe as Mr Coats’ replacement, with an acting official due to be appointed in the coming days.

Mr Ratcliffe is a frequent Trump defender who fiercely questioned former special counsel Robert Mueller last week during a US house judiciary committee hearing.

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 broader divisions between the president and the government’s intelligence agencies.

Mr Coats’ public, and sometimes personal, disagreements with Mr Trump over policy and intelligence included Russian election interference and North Korean nuclear capabilities.

John Ratcliffe has been nominated to replace outgoing US director of national intelligence Dan Coats (AP)

The president had long been sceptical of the nation’s intelligence agencies, which provoked his ire by concluding that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election with the goal of getting him elected.

In his letter of resignation, 76-year-old 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, becoming the fifth person to hold the post since it was created in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks to oversee and coordinate the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies.

Mr Coats had been among the last of the seasoned foreign policy hands brought to surround the president after his 2016 victory. Mr Trump steadily grew tired of them as he gained more personal confidence in the Oval Office, officials said.

That roster included defence secretary Jim Mattis and secretary of state Rex Tillerson, and later national security adviser HR McMaster.

Mr Coats developed a reputation inside the administration for sober presentations to the president of intelligence conclusions that occasionally contradicted his policy aims.

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

Mr Coats served in congress from 1981 to 1999 as a member of the house and in the senate. He served as ambassador to Germany from 2001 to 2005 and returned to the Senate in 2011. He decided not to seek re-election and retired from congress in January 2017.

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