US spy chief Dan Coats resigns and Donald Trump picks supporter who attacked Robert Mueller as replacement

DIRECTOR of US National Intelligence Dan Coats is stepping down after clashing with Donald Trump over Russia, Iran and North Korea.

Trump announced Coats’ resignation and nominated Republican Representative John Ratcliffe to replace him as spy chief.

Director of US National Intelligence Dan Coats is stepping down
AP:Associated Press

Director of US National Intelligence Dan Coats is stepping down[/caption]

Trump announced Coats would be leaving the post
AP:Associated Press

Trump announced Coats would be leaving the post on August 15[/caption]

It comes days after Ratcliffe, a Trump supporter, fiercely questioned ex-special counsel Robert Mueller at a hearing about the Russia probe.

Coats often appeared out of step with 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.

Trump tweeted: “I am pleased to announce that highly respected Congressman John Ratcliffe of Texas will be nominated by me to be the Director of National Intelligence.

Trump took to Twitter to nominate a successor
Trump took to Twitter to nominate a successor

Trump nominated Republican Representative John Ratcliffe to be the next spy chief
AP:Associated Press

Trump nominated Republican Representative John Ratcliffe to be the next spy chief[/caption]

“A former U.S. Attorney, John will lead and inspire greatness for the Country he loves.

“Dan Coats, the current Director, will be leaving office on August 15th.

“I would like to thank Dan for his great service to our Country. The Acting Director will be named shortly.”

A former Republican senator from Indiana, Coats was appointed director of National Intelligence in March 2017.

He was the fifth person to hold the post since it was created in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to oversee and coordinate the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies.

Coats developed a reputation inside the administration for sober presentations to the president of intelligence conclusions that occasionally contradicted Trump’s 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.

Trump announced Coats’ departure days after Mueller’s testimony on his two-year probe into Russian election interference and potential obstruction of justice by Trump.

Coats had been among the least visible of the president’s senior officials, but repeatedly seemed at odds with the administration.

He revealed to Mueller’s investigators how Trump, angry over investigations into links between his campaign and Russia, tried unsuccessfully in March 2017 to get him to make a public statement refuting any connection.

“Coats responded that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has nothing to do with investigations and it was not his role to make a public statement on the Russia investigation,” Mueller’s report said.

Trump later called Coats to complain about the investigation and how it was affecting the government’s foreign policy.

Coats told prosecutors he responded that the best thing to do was to let the investigation take its course.

In February, he publicly cast doubt on the prospects of persuading North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program despite the diplomatic efforts of the administration.

Coats, in testimony to Congress as part of annual national intelligence assessment, said North Korea would be “unlikely” to give up its nuclear weapons or its ability to produce them.

Trump publicly bristled at the testimony of Coats, the head of the CIA and other officials who contradicted his own positions on Iran, Afghanistan and the Islamic State group as well as North Korea.

The intelligence officials were “passive and naive,” he said in a tweet.

Last July, Coats and the president appeared at odds following Trump’s widely panned news conference in Helsinki alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump said he saw no reason to believe Russia had interfered in the 2016 election, drawing bipartisan criticism and a rebuttal from his intelligence chief.

“We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security,” Coats said.

The president later said he misspoke in Helsinki.

Coats, 76, 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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