Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has resigned from the Trump administration, President Trump announced on Saturday. The president will nominate Representative John Ratcliffe, Republican of Texas, a Trump loyalist who has repeatedly sought to discredit to Russia investigation and special counsel Robert Mueller, to take Coats’s place — meaning a very public skeptic of the U.S. intelligence community may soon be put in charge of it.
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. A former U.S. Attorney, John will lead and inspire greatness for the Country he loves. Dan Coats, the current Director, will be leaving office on August 15th. I would like to thank Dan for his great service to our Country. The Acting Director will be named shortly.
Coats, one of the only Cabinet members to publicly contradict the president’s false claims regarding national-security issues like the Russia investigation, is, by the New York Times’ count, the 53rd Trump official to resign, be forced out, or fired during the president’s time in office — a record turnover rate that underlines the perpetual dysfunction of the Trump White House. The move also reflects Trump’s love of the shady flexibility in sticking with “acting” agency heads. Whoever Trump names to serve as his acting DNI while Ratcliffe waits to be confirmed will be the seventh acting head in Trump’s cabinet and the 16th to currently hold such a role if you include the next tier of important agency directors below Cabinet level.
Earlier this month, Axios reported that Trump had been actively looking to replace/oust Coats since at least February, and that the president wanted to do away with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence entirely, but would instead try to downsize the office after being advised that it wouldn’t be politically feasible to eliminate it.
Coats, an Establishment Republican who has served in the House, Senate, and George W. Bush administration (as U.S. ambassador to Germany), has been getting on Trump’s loyalty-obsessed nerves for a long time. In July of last year, Coats issued a rebuttal to the president’s assertion that he believed Russian president Vladimir Putin over U.S. intelligence officials when Putin said that Russia had not been meddling in U.S. elections. The same week, when Coats learned during a live interview that Trump had invited Putin to the White House, he expressed shock and exasperation, also admitting that he would have advised Trump against the super-sketchy private meeting he’d had with Putin in Helsinki. Though Coats later tried to insist that he meant no disrespect to the president with his comments, Trump insiders told reporters that he might be fired.
Coats survived another year instead and had more flare-ups with his intelligence-hating boss. Most notably, in January, Coats disputed Trump’s assertions that ISIS had been defeated and that North Korea had embraced denuclearization (or ever would), and he has continued to sound the warning about the active efforts of Russia and other countries to meddle in U.S. elections.