Director Of National Intelligence Dan Coats Resigns
SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, a man who often found himself at odds with his boss, President Trump, is stepping down. Trump has now replaced almost every senior member of his national security team since taking office. NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre is in the studio and joins us now to talk about it.
GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hi there.
MCCAMMON: So what do we know at this point about the circumstances of Coats' departure? Was he pushed out?
MYRE: Well, it certainly looks like it. His departure had been rumored for some time, so this doesn't really come as a surprise. And you look at the history - he's cleaned out virtually everybody from his original national security and foreign policy team. Coats was one of the last survivors. And it came in a tweet this afternoon, typical of President Trump fashion. So people have been expecting this for a while, and boom - here it is.
MCCAMMON: Right. And now, Coats and Trump have clashed in the past over intelligence matters, we know. Tell us more about what happened.
MYRE: Yeah, they really have. I mean, one example was when Coats was testifying in January before a Senate Intelligence Committee. President Trump had just said a couple things - that North Korea's nuclear program no longer seemed to be a threat. Coats went up and contradicted that with his testimony, saying the assessment of the intelligence community was that the North Koreans would keep their nuclear weapons. So that was one example. Perhaps the one that really captured it was he was being interviewed last summer by Andrea Mitchell of NBC, and mid-conversation, she just sort of dropped a bombshell on him. We can have a listen here.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ANDREA MITCHELL: I do want to say we have some breaking news. The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.
DAN COATS: Say that again.
MYRE: That's just captured the way that Trump and Coats and his intelligence team writ large didn't seem to be on the same page - that things were just coming out of left field. I mean, Coats was sort of caught out there. He tried to make a joke about it. And Putin didn't actually make that - end up making that trip last year. But it really did seem to reflect the way that there just seem to be these differences.
MCCAMMON: Disconnect there between Coats and his boss. Now, of course, Coats wasn't new to Washington. He's a former senator among other things. What else can you tell us about him, Greg?
MYRE: Well, I think what's interesting is, again, this long congressional history - very well-respected, mild-mannered, very much an establishment Republican. One of his colleagues dubbed him the Mister Rogers of the Senate. So the guy was very collegial, got along with everybody. Again, you know, well known by everybody in Washington. He spent a lot of time with Trump despite all of these differences they had.
Dan Coats and CIA director Gina Haspel were the two real regulars every morning in Trump's intelligence briefing. So the president saw Coats almost every day. Coats operated very much behind the scenes. He didn't say a lot. You didn't see him very often. But he was there every day, so the president was having face time with him. And we - you know, so it's not like they weren't having contact.
MCCAMMON: But now he's on his way out. What do we know about Congressman John Ratcliffe, who appears to be replacing Coats as the new head of all of these intelligence agencies?
MYRE: He's a Texas Republican congressman, very conservative, elected in 2014. And the groups that rate congressmen have rated him not only the most conservative Texas congressman but one of the most conservative congressmen in all of Congress. So that's, I think, perhaps the most important thing to know about him.
MCCAMMON: All right. That's NPR's Greg Myre.
Thanks so much.
MYRE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.