Trump says he wants to ‘rein in’ US intelligence agencies

Zamira Rahim

Donald Trump has said he wants to “rein in” US intelligence agencies, fuelling fears he wants the nation’s next spy chief to be someone loyal to him.

The president announced on Friday that Dan Coats, the current director of national intelligence, would leave his post on 15 August.

Mr Coats, a long time fixture of the Republican intelligence establishment, has repeatedly clashed with the president during his two-year-long tenure.

The president will nominate John Ratcliffe, a staunch Trump ally, to replace him.

And Mr Trump said the congressman “is going to do an incredible job, if he gets approved [by the Senate]”, while talking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday.

“I think we need somebody like that in there, “ he said.

“We need somebody strong that can rein it in. Because, as I think you’ve all learned, the intelligence agencies have run amok. They have run amok.”

Mr Coats, a former senator, is widely respected in Washington but had differences with the president over the Russia investigation.

The intelligence chief was of the view that Moscow, which allegedly interfered in the 2016 presidential election, remained a danger to the US; Mr Trump had a different perspective.

The pair also publicly clashed over the president’s refusal to challenge Vladimir Putin over Russia’s alleged interference in US politics last summer.

And Mr Coats was later forced to apologise for scoffing when told of the US leader’s decision to invite the Russian leader to Washington.

The president denied any “conflict” with the official on Tuesday, claiming that Mr Coats “was a friend”.

“Dan made statements and they were a little confused,” he added.

The president has repeatedly attacked the intelligence community during his two-and-a-half years in office.

His comments, along with his nomination of Mr Ratcliffe, have fuelled fears that the US leader is hoping to consolidate his power and lurch further into authoritarianism, while breaking political norms.

Mr Ratcliffe drew attention last week when he defended the president during a hearing in which former special counsel Robert Mueller testified on his two-year probe into Russia’s election interference.

“It’s clear that Rep Ratcliffe was selected because he exhibited blind loyalty to President Trump with his demagogic questioning of former special counsel Robert Mueller,” Chuck Schumer, the senate minority leader, said in a statement.

“If Senate Republicans elevate such a partisan player to a position that requires intelligence expertise and non-partisanship, it would be a big mistake.”

Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic presidential primary candidate, also condemned Mr Ratcliffe’s nomination.

“From day one, Trump has made his disdain for the intelligence community clear,” she said.

“Our Director of National Intelligence should be above partisan politics, speak truth to power, and resist Trump’s abuses of authority. John Ratcliffe doesn’t fit that bill.

Mr Coats will join a long list of senior officials to leave the administration since Mr Trump took office in January 2017, either through resignation or firing.

The list includes a defence secretary, attorney general, two national security advisers, a secretary of state, an FBI director, numerous top White House officials and assorted other cabinet members.

Additional reporting by agencies