Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats is leaving his job next month, ending a two-year tenure marked by President Trump’s clashes with intelligence officials.
Trump announced Coats’s departure on Aug. 15 in a tweet Sunday that thanked Coats for his service. He said that he will nominate Representative John Ratcliffe, Republican of Texas, to the post and that he will name an acting official in the coming days. Ratcliffe is a frequent Trump defender who fiercely questioned former special counsel Robert Mueller last week during a House Judiciary Committee hearing.
Coats often appeared out of step with Trump and disclosed to prosecutors how he was urged by the president to publicly deny any link between Russia and the Trump campaign. The frayed relationship reflected broader divisions between the president and the government’s intelligence agencies.
Coats’s public, and sometimes personal, disagreements with Trump over policy and intelligence included Russian election interference and North Korean nuclear capabilities. Trump had long been skeptical of the nation’s intelligence community, which provoked his ire by concluding that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election with the goal of getting him elected.
A former Republican senator from Indiana, Coats was appointed director of National Intelligence in March 2017, becoming the fifth person to hold the post since it was created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to oversee and coordinate the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies.
Coats had been among the last of the seasoned foreign policy hands brought to surround the president after his 2016 victory, of whom the president steadily grew tired as he gained more personal confidence in Oval Office, officials said. That roster included Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and later national security adviser H.R. McMaster.
Coats developed a reputation inside the administration for sober presentations to the president of intelligence conclusions that occasionally contradicted Trump’s policy aims.
Scott says he wasn’t told about ’16 Russian hacking
US Senator Rick Scott said Sunday that he was never told by Homeland Security officials in 2016 when he was Florida’s governor that Russian hackers had gained access to voter databases in two Florida counties ahead of the presidential election.
Scott said on NBC’s ‘‘Meet the Press’’ that he was never contacted by the Department of Homeland Security in 2016 about the infiltration. The Republican said he learned about most of the details this year.
Current Governor Ron DeSantis said in May that the hackers didn’t manipulate any data and the election results weren’t compromised. DeSantis and other officials briefed on the matter wouldn’t say which counties.
Scott made his comments when asked about a Senate report released last week that said all states were targeted to varying degrees by Russian hackers. Scott said he hasn’t yet read the report, though he was briefed on it.
Last August, then-Democratic US Senator Bill Nelson, who Scott was running against, said that Russians had penetrated the systems of certain Florida counties and had ‘‘free rein to move about’’ before last year’s midterm election. Scott, who defeated Nelson in the November election, criticized Nelson’s allegations, saying they were sensational.
The Senate report outlined efforts by Russian hackers to get into systems in Illinois and around two dozen unnamed states. It detailed attempts in Illinois and a state only referred to as ‘‘State 2’’ but widely believed to be Florida, according to newsreports.
US inquiry of Trump friend focused on foreign lobbying
As Donald Trump was preparing to deliver an address on energy policy in May 2016, Paul Manafort, his campaign chairman, had a question about the speech’s contents for Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a top campaign fund-raiser and close friend of Trump.
“Are you running this by our friends?” Manafort asked in a previously undisclosed e-mail to Barrack, whose real estate and investment firm does extensive business in the Middle East.
Barrack was, in fact, coordinating the language in a draft of the speech with Persian Gulf contacts including Rashid al-Malik, an Emirati businessman who is close to the rulers of the United Arab Emirates.
The exchanges about Trump’s energy speech are among a series of interactions that have come under scrutiny by federal prosecutors looking at foreign influence over his campaign, his transition, and the early stages of his administration, according to documents and interviews with people familiar with the case.
Investigators have looked in particular at whether Barrack or others violated the law requiring people who try to influence US policy or opinion at the direction of foreign governments or entities to disclose their activities to the Justice Department, people familiar with the case said.
The inquiry had proceeded far enough last month that Barrack, who played an influential role in the campaign and acts as an outside adviser to the White House, was interviewed, at his request, by prosecutors in the public integrity unit of the US attorney’s office in Brooklyn.
Barrack’s spokesman, Owen Blicksilver, said that in expectation of this article, Barrack’s lawyer had again contacted the prosecutors’ office and “confirmed they have no further questions for Mr. Barrack.”
Barrack has not been accused of wrongdoing, and his aides said he never worked on behalf of foreign states or entities. Asked about the status of the inquiry, a representative for the US attorney’s office in Brooklyn declined to comment.
New York Times
Top Judiciary Democrat says Trump ‘deserves impeachment’
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Sunday that he believes President Trump ‘‘richly deserves impeachment,’’ an explosive statement from the lawmaker whose committee has the power to launch proceedings to remove the president from office.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, appearing on CNN’s ‘‘State of the Union,’’ said Trump ‘‘has done many impeachable offenses, he’s violated the law six ways from Sunday.’’
‘‘But that’s not the question,’’ Nadler continued. ‘‘The question is, can we develop enough evidence to put before the American people?’’
The distinction illustrates a growing tension within the Democratic Party: Many members are convinced Trump ought to be impeached, but the consensus among party leaders is that they should try to secure more records and witness interviews through the courts before embarking on such a politically incendiary move, especially as the GOP-controlled Senate is likely to defeat such an effort.
Nadler’s comments come on the heels of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Nadler called the testimony ‘‘an inflection point, in that it broke the administration’s lie, the attorney general’s lie, that the president was fully exonerated by the Mueller report.’’
As the leader of the committee that would launch the impeachment hearings, Nadler is the most important Democrat yet to publicly state his personal support for the cause in no uncertain terms. But he has been loath to cross House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California in his official moves — and gave no sign Sunday that he intended to break with that pattern.
‘‘We’re investigating the corruption of the administration, the abuses of power . . . all the things that might cause us to recommend articles of impeachment,’’ Nadler said. ‘‘We now have to get further evidence and put it before the American people as we consider articles of impeachment.’’
Pelosi has regularly resisted the calls from her caucus for impeachment proceedings, but last week, she signed off on the House Judiciary Committee’s appeal to a federal judge to enforce its subpoenas seeking the redacted grand jury information contained in the Mueller report. Nadler also told reporters that the panel would go to court next week to enforce its subpoenas against former White House counsel Donald McGahn, whose testimony was key to the report.