President Trump on Sunday announced that Texas GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe, a staunch 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.
The move prompted immediate outrage from many top Democrats who accused the president of going after a blindly loyal yes-man to the key post.
A source close to the matter told Fox News that Coats never saw his 2017 appointment as a long-term proposition. Ratcliffe has been well-versed in the intelligence community after driving key sections of ongoing Republican-led probes into apparent Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuses by the FBI and Justice Department, Fox News is told.
Coats submitted his letter of resignation to President Trump on Sunday. Part of it read: “The Intelligence Community is stronger than ever, and increasingly well prepared to meet new challenges and opportunities. As we have previously discussed, I believe it is time for me to move on to the next chapter of my life.”
“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 tweeted.
“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.”
Coats frequently appeared out of step with Trump during his two-year tenure, and their frayed relationship reflected broader divisions between the president and the government’s intelligence agencies.
For instance, Coats revealed to then-Special Counsel Robert 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.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a statement to make clear his disapproval of the selection:
“It’s clear that Rep. Ratcliffe was selected because he exhibited blind loyalty to President Trump with his demagogic questioning of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller,” Schumer said. “If Senate Republicans elevate such a partisan player to a position that requires intelligence expertise and non-partisanship, it would be a big mistake.”
“The departure of DNI Coats is bad news for the security of America,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., chimed in. “DNI Coats’ successor must put patriotism before politics and remember that his oath is to protect the Constitution and the American people, not the President.”
Reaction from Republican lawmakers to Ratcliffe’s selection appeared positive across the board. House Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Mike Rogers, R-Ala., called Ratcliffe an “excellent pick to be director of national intelligence.”
“His experience on the Homeland Security Committee and as former Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, & Innovation Subcommittee chairman will serve him well in this new role,” Rogers said. “I thank Director Coats for his leadership and years of public service.”
Speculation about Coats’ ouster had been lingering in recent days. Earlier this month, Trump spoke to two people recently about the job. Among the candidates he was considering at the time were Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Fred Fleitz, who previously served as chief of staff to National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Trump regularly and openly sparred with Coats and the intelligence community. “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” he tweeted in January, after Coats and CIA Director Gina Haspel testified about a threat-assessment report that called into question some of Trump’s foreign policy judgments.
Ratcliffe, by contrast, appeared to be on the same page as the president.
He added: “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.”