Dan Coats out as director of national intelligence: Trump selects Rep. John Ratcliffe as replacement

Dan Coats out as director of national intelligence: Trump selects Rep. John Ratcliffe as replacement

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President Trump announced on Sunday that Texas GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe, a loyal White House ally, will replace Dan Coats as director of national intelligence (DNI), following months of speculation and public spats between the president and the intelligence community.

“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 wrote.

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

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The Senate must still confirm Ratcliffe as the new director of national intelligence.

Coats has clashed with President Trump on several high profile issues, and has widely been considered among the most vulnerable members of the president’s administration – even as both men have downplayed talk of tension.

For instance, Coats 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.

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“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.

Then last year at the Aspen Security Forum, Coats did a double-take when host Andrea Mitchell broke the news on stage that Vladimir Putin was planning a trip to Washington.

Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee this past January. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee this past January. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

“Say that again?” he asked, to laughter in the audience. “OK, that’s going to be special.”

Coats later said he meant no disrespect to Trump, and admitted the moment was “awkward.”

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“Some press coverage has mischaracterized my intentions in responding to breaking news presented to me during a live interview. My admittedly awkward response was in no way meant to be disrespectful or criticize the actions of the President,” Coats said.

During last week’s high profile hearing, Ratcliffe admonished former special counsel Robert Mueller for saying he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice claims.

Ratcliffe told Mueller, “nowhere does it say that you were to conclusively determine Donald Trump’s innocence or that the special counsel report should determine whether or not to exonerate him.”

While agreeing with Democrats that Trump “is not above the law,” Ratcliffe added: “But he damn sure should not be below the law.”

“By requiring Donald Trump to prove his innocence, they were depriving him of the one thing no one can be deprived of, which is a presumption of innocence,” Ratcliffe said in an interview with Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”

Ratcliffe, who won re-election with more than 70 percent of the vote in his district in 2018, echoed that argument in the House Judiciary Committee hearings.

“The special counsel’s job, nowhere does it say that you were to conclusively determine Donald Trump’s innocence or that the special counsel report should determine whether or not to exonerate him,” Ratcliffe told Mueller.

He added: “So Americans need to know this as they listen to the Democrats and socialists on the other side of the aisle as they do dramatic readings from this report that Volume II of this report was not authorized under the law to be written.

“It was written to a legal standard that does not exist at the Justice Department and it was written in violation of every DOJ principle about extra prosecutorial commentary,” he continued. “I agree with the chairman this morning when he said Donald Trump is not above the law. He’s not. But he damn sure shouldn’t be below the law, which is where Volume II of this report puts him.”

Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana, 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 Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to oversee and coordinate the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies.

Coats had been among the last of the seasoned foreign policy hands brought to surround the president after his 2016 victory, of whom the president steadily grew tired as he gained more personal confidence in Oval Office, officials said. That roster included Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and later national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

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