A senior White House official confirmed there is some discussion about Coats leaving his position, as he has been on the job for more than two years and is eyeing retirement again. However, it remains unclear when or if Trump will make a move.
Trump has expressed frustration in the past with Coats and has periodically considered replacing him, as CNN has reported. His conversations about possibly removing Coats appears to have been revived in recent days, but Trump has long disapproved of some of Coats’ conduct.
Another senior White House official said Trump has never really warmed up to his intelligence director, and this official noted discussions between the President and his aides about removing Coats happened well after he contradicted Trump during a hearing on Capitol Hill earlier this year — an episode that drew the President’s ire.
Fred Fleitz, former chief of staff to national security adviser John Bolton, is one name being floated for the post. He has had discussions with the White House about possibly replacing Coats, two sources told CNN.
But there could be several others, as Trump is no stranger to creating a vacancy with no clear permanent replacement waiting in the wings.
A source familiar with Bolton’s thinking told CNN that he is pushing for Fleitz to get the job, but Trump’s relationship with Bolton has been tested due to the national security adviser’s push for more aggressive moves on Iran and it is unclear if Bolton has the clout to get one of his top allies into such a prestigious post.
Coats’ office referred CNN to a March statement, in which Coats said, “I am focused on doing my job, and it is frustrating to repeatedly be asked to respond to anonymous sources and unsubstantiated, often false rumors that undercut the critical work of the Intelligence Community and its relationship with the President. I am proud to lead an IC singularly focused on the vital mission of providing timely and unbiased intelligence to President Trump, Vice President Pence and the national security team in support of our nation’s security.”
Never a particularly close relationship
Trump and Coats never forged a particularly close relationship and the President has time and again voiced frustrations about Coats, telling advisers that he considered Coats in line with other top officials who have sought to restrain him like former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and former White House chief of staff John Kelly.
In February, CNN reported that White House officials had begun to have preliminary discussions about replacing Coats amid concerns Trump might soon dismiss him. Trump publicly denied that he was considering the move at the time.
“We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities,” Coats said during that hearing. “It is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival. Our assessment is bolstered by our observations of some activity that is inconsistent with full denuclearization.”
Coats was in lock-step with the US intelligence community’s assessments — which Trump himself has seen — but the President fumed in the subsequent days about the press coverage of Coats and his fellow intelligence officials’ comments.
When disagreements between Trump and Coats previously spilled into public view, Trump has quickly papered over the discord and moved on, but it remains unclear whether the that will happen again this time.
Credit: Source link