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US intelligence chief to step down after tenure marked by clashes with Trump

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats met with journalists from the Defense Writers Group, an association of news outlets with reporters that cover national security issues, at the Fairmont Hotel on Wednesday, April 4, 2018. (School of Media and Public Affairs at GWU/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. President Donald Trump is replacing the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, whose assessments of security threats from Iran and Russia were often contradicted by the president.

Trump tweeted on July 28 that Coats, the latest high-profile figure to leave his administration, will step down on August 15 and that he will nominate Republican Representative John Ratcliffe of Texas as his replacement to oversee the country’s 17 intelligence agencies.

During his 2 1/2-year tenure, Coats has repeatedly clashed with Trump on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and the president’s attempts at rapprochement with North Korea.

Trump, who has been critical of intelligence agencies, thanked Coats for his service and said an “acting director will be named shortly.”

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In his resignation letter to the president, the former senator from Indiana said America’s intelligence community had become “stronger than ever.”

“As a result, I now believe it is time for me to move on to the next chapter of my life,” he wrote.

Trump said Ratcliffe, a supporter of the president and his policies, was a “highly respected congressman” who “will lead and inspire greatness for the country he loves” — providing his nomination is approved.

Last week, Ratcliffe, a third-term representative, defended Trump during the testimony of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who led a two-year inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 vote.

Mueller reiterated to Congress that his findings did not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice.

A former federal prosecutor, Ratcliffe said the special counsel did not have the authority to determine Trump’s innocence or to exonerate him.

“It’s clear Rep. Ratcliffe was selected because he exhibited blind loyalty to @realDonaldTrump with his demagogic questioning of Mueller,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer tweeted.

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“If Senate Republicans elevate such a partisan player to a position requiring intelligence expertise & non-partisanship, it’d be a big mistake.”