The Slatest

Dan Coats Steps Down as Director of National Intelligence

Dan Coats, director of National Intelligence, testifies at a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on January 29, 2019.
Dan Coats, director of National Intelligence, testifies at a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on January 29, 2019.
SAUL LOEB/Getty Images

After a tenure of butting heads with President Donald Trump, Dan Coats is stepping down as director of national intelligence. Trump said he will nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas to take over for the job. Axios was first to report that Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas looked like the likely replacement. Coats’ departure isn’t exactly surprising and “has been whispered about in Washington for weeks,” according to the New York Times. Although Coats had been expected to step down from his post earlier, he reportedly stayed on longer in order to not make it seem that he was forced out when he was in the middle of a tense relationship with the president.

“A former U.S. Attorney, John will lead and inspire greatness for the Country he loves,” Trump wrote in his Twitter announcement. Coats will be leaving office August 15. “I would like to thank Dan for his great service to our Country,” Trump added, noting he will be naming an “acting” replacement shortly.

Trump had been considering getting rid of Coats for months. Axios earlier reported that the president had been mulling potential replacements for Coats since at least February. The Times, meanwhile, says it has been going on for longer and claims Trump had been considering firing Coats since at least his 2018 meeting in Finland with Russian President Vladimir Putin. That was when Trump dismissed the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community that Moscow interfered in the presidential race. Later, it became clear the two weren’t seeing eye to eye at a security conference in Aspen. In a moment that went viral, Coats expressed surprise when he was told that the White House had announced Putin would visit the White House. “Ok, that’s gonna be special,” he said. During that appearance Coats also openly said that he wished Trump had “made a different statement” following the summit with Putin.

Coats also angered the president in January when he told the Senate Intelligence Committee that North Korea was unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons. Although several top Trump allies have called on the president to fire Coats in the past it seems his close relationship with Vice President Mike Pence protected him for a while.

It seems that Ratcliffe impressed the president during his questioning of former special counsel Robert Mueller. Although Ratcliffe was already under consideration for the job his aggressive questioning of Mueller apparently helped push him over the edge.