US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats is to leave his job next month, US President Donald Trump announced, after a turbulent two years in which he and Coats were often at odds over Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump named a Republican congressman and fierce loyalist to replace him.
Trump announced Coats’ departure as Aug. 15 in a tweet on Sunday that thanked Coats for his service.
He said he would nominate US Representative John Ratcliffe to the post and that he would soon name an acting official.
Ratcliffe is a frequent Trump defender who fiercely questioned former special counsel Robert Mueller during a US House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary hearing last week.
Coats often appeared out of step with Trump and disclosed to prosecutors how he was urged by the Republican president to publicly deny any link between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Coats’ public, and sometimes personal, disagreements with Trump over policy and intelligence included Russian election interference and North Korean nuclear capabilities.
Trump had long been skeptical of the nation’s intelligence agencies, which provoked his ire by concluding that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election with the goal of getting him elected.
In a letter of resignation released on Sunday night, Coats said serving as the nation’s top intelligence official has been a “distinct privilege,” but that it was time for him to “move on” to the next chapter of his life.
He cited his work to strengthen the intelligence community’s effort to prevent harm to the US from adversaries and to reform the security clearance process.
A former Republican senator from Indiana, Coats 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, terror attacks on the US to oversee and coordinate the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies.
Coats had been among the last of the seasoned foreign policy hands to surround the president after his 2016 victory.
Trump’s announcement that Coats would be leaving came days after Mueller’s public testimony on his probe into Russian election interference and potential obstruction of justice by Trump, which officials said both emboldened and infuriated the president.
Democrats said Ratcliffe was too political for the post.
US Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer tweeted: “It’s clear Rep. Ratcliffe was selected because he exhibited blind loyalty to (at)realDonaldTrump with his demagogic questioning of Mueller. If Senate Republicans elevate such a partisan player to a position requiring intelligence expertise & non-partisanship, it’d be a big mistake.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday issued a statement that praised Coats, but noted: “The US intelligence community works best when it is led by professionals who protect its work from political or analytical bias and who deliver unvarnished hard truths to political leaders in both the executive and legislative branches. Very often the news these briefings bring is unpleasant, but it is essential that we be confronted with the facts. Dan Coats was such a leader.”
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