Room at the Top

The US Director of National Intelligence (DNI), former Indiana Senator Dan Coats, has announced that he has resigned and will formally leave his post in August. For those of you who don’t know, the post of DNI was created to oversee the activities of the seventeen different US intelligence agencies (there is a prize if you can name them all).

Coats has occupied the post for the past two and a half years. This is not very long to get to grips with the intricacies of dealing with so many different, and sometimes antagonistic, organisations. However, unlike most other Trump appointees, Coats was respected by the agencies he represented because he stood up for them. Several times Coats disagreed with Trump because the President has often been critical of the agencies when they have not told him what he wanted to hear. For instance, when they disagreed with his analysis of the Iran nuclear situation in January this year, Trump called the agencies “naive” and suggested that they needed to go back to school. As a result of Coats’ independent point of view, Trump has increasingly isolated him and it is probably this that made Coats’ early resignation inevitable. Coats had even complained openly that he was given no warning of Trump’s private meeting with President Putin at Helsinki in 2018. The idea that the Director of National Intelligence would not be involved in preparation for a private meeting with the leader of the United States’ most dangerous opponent would be laughable if it were not true.

Coats’ replacement is to be Texas Senator John Ratcliffe. An attorney by training, Ratcliffe has taken an interest in cyber security in recent years. Ratcliffe is one of those rabid Trump supporters who will not let facts get in the way of what it is convenient for him to believe. He recently grilled former FBI Director Robert Mueller at the Congressional hearings into the Russia collusion inquiry. Ratcliffe stood out because he repeatedly refused to accept Mueller’s word for it that Trump had not been exonerated by the inquiry. (Remember we are talking about Ratcliffe denigrating a highly experienced and distinguished FBI officer who has served his country for over forty years and who had personally led the inquiry.) Many observers felt that this outspoken performance – which garnered warm praise on right-wing barometer channel Fox News – was Ratcliffe’s bid to be given the upcoming DNI job. Ratcliffe aides have denied the story, but Trump is known to have enjoyed the performance and the very next day Trump made an announcement via Twitter that the job was Ratcliffe’s.

US intelligence agencies will see this appointment as the arrival of another Trump “yes man” in line with other recent appointments. Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer has already said that Ratcliffe has been given the job because of his “blind loyalty” to Trump. Working objectively in the US intelligence services just got a little bit harder.

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