On Sunday, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats sent his letter of resignation to the White House. Coats’ departure marks the second resignation of a high-level administration official in a span of two weeks. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta resigned from his post on 12 July.
Coats thanked President Trump for the “opportunity to lead the intelligence community,” saying that “serving [the] nation” in the this capacity has been a “distinct privilege.”
Coats concluded his farewell by saying “I believe it is time for me to move on to the next chapter of my life.”
Anyone with a modicum of knowledge on the history of Trump’s administration understands that the resignation of Dan Coats was long in coming.
A former Republican senator from Indiana, Coats was appointed director of National Intelligence (DNI) in March 2017. He was the fifth person to hold the post of DNI, a position created in the post-September 11th intelligence re-shuffle. The DNI replaced the director of the CIA (formerly director of Central Intelligence) as the main coordinator of the country’s seventeen intelligence agencies.
From early on, it was clear that Trump and Coats did not see eye-to-eye on many key intelligence matters. In his two-year tenure, Coats clashed with Trump, as the DNI director took a harder line toward Russia that sharply contrasted with the president’s conciliatory approach. On the hot-topic issues of Iran and North Korea, Coats also strongly disagreed with Trump’s goals. In a Congressional hearing regarding Iran, Coats said that the intelligence community does “not believe Iran is currently undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.” This was seen as undermining the president’s more aggressive stance on Tehran as well as the decision to pull out of the nuclear accords signed during the Obama era. On the North Korean issue Coats was always adamant that Pyongyang’s behavior was “inconsistent with full denuclearization.”
After having to deal with such an adversary for two years, it is not surprising that Trump has opted to appoint a loyalist of his, Texas Republican John Ratcliffe, to fill Coats’ position.
While Ratcliffe’s appointment will almost certainly make Trump’s life easier, some policymakers see issues with bringing in a man they see as divisive. “If Senate Republicans elevate such a partisan player to a position that requires intelligence expertise and non-partisanship, it would be a big mistake,” said Democrat leader Chuck Schumer in a statement.