Trump’s Top Intelligence Official Is Leaving His Administration
President Trump announced in a tweet Sunday that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats would be stepping down Aug. 15.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats will step down from his role, and Rep. John Ratcliffe will be nominated to replace him, President Trump announced in a tweet on Sunday.
Coats will leave his position on Aug. 15, the president said, and an acting director would be announced shortly. Once nominated, Ratcliffe, a Republican from Texas, must be confirmed by the Senate before taking on the position.
Ratcliffe was among members of the House Judiciary Committee who questioned former special counsel Robert Mueller last week.
"A former U.S. Attorney, John will lead and inspire greatness for the Country he loves," Trump said in his tweet.
Coats and Trump had long been at odds, and Sunday's announcement came after more than a year of speculation that Coats might resign.
In a joint press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July 2018, Trump sided with Putin over his own intelligence agencies when asked about Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Coats then issued a statement, saying the intelligence community has “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.”
The president later tried to walk back what he said, telling reporters he did believe that Russia meddled in the election. But his clarification, issued more than 24 hours later, was widely seen as too little, too late.
Following the press conference, the president also responded “no” when asked if Russia was still targeting the US — something Coats had warned about just days before. “The warning signs are there. The system is blinking,” Coats had said ahead of Trump’s meeting with Putin. The White House later said the president’s “no” was in response to taking questions from reporters in general and not about the particular question.
The same week, as the administration was still recovering from the fallout of the press conference, Coats appeared shocked to learn during an interview on stage in Aspen that the president had invited Putin to the White House in the fall. “Say that again?” he said, before laughing and adding, “Okay. That’s going to be special.”
In the same interview, Coats said he did not know what the president discussed with Putin during their two-hour private discussion Monday.
Coats has been consistent in warning about Russian interference in the US. In February 2018, he told the Senate that, “Frankly, the United States is under attack.”
Coats, a well-liked former senator from Indiana who served on the body’s intelligence panel, was confirmed by the Senate as director of national intelligence by a vote of 85-12 in March 2017.