US spy chief Coats stepping down, Ratcliffe to replace him, says Trump

Published: Updated:

President Donald Trump said on Sunday the nation’s top intelligence official, Dan Coats, would leave his post next month and that he would nominate Republican congressman John Ratcliffe to replace him.

“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 said on Twitter.

Coats had clashed with US President Donald Trump over assessments involving Russia, Iran and North Korea.

A person with direct knowledge of that matter told Reuters that Coats advised Trump last week that he planned to step down fairly soon as director of national intelligence. He offered the president some thoughts on who might succeed him, the source said.

Coats’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

US Representative John Ratcliffe, who is to to replace Coats, is a member of the House of Representatives intelligence and judiciary committees.

Ratcliffe had strongly defended Trump on Wednesday during former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony on his two-year investigation of Russian election activities.

His prospects for Senate confirmation to the top intelligence post were not clear.

Coats, a Trump appointee who served as director of national intelligence since March 2017, clashed with his boss early on, taking a hard line toward Russia that sharply contrasted with the conciliatory approach Trump pursued toward Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In January, Coats told Congress that North Korea was unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons, contradicting Trump’s statement that Pyongyang no longer poses a threat. He also told lawmakers that Iran had continued to comply with a nuclear deal that Trump abandoned.

The next day, Trump on Twitter complained about the “passive and naïve” US intelligence leaders, suggesting they “go back to school!”