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Trump selects former Sen. Coats for top intelligence post

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    President-elect Donald Trump is planning to appoint former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats as Director of National Intelligence. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

WASHINGTON >> President-elect Donald Trump has selected former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats to lead the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, a role that would thrust him into the center of the intelligence community that Trump has publicly challenged, a person with knowledge of the decision said Thursday.

Coats served as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee before retiring from Congress last year. If confirmed by the Senate, he would oversee the umbrella office created after 9/11 to improve coordination of U.S. spy and law enforcement agencies.

The person with knowledge of Trump’s decision was not authorized to discuss the pick publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Since winning the election, Trump has repeatedly questioned intelligence officials’ assessments that Russia interfered with the election on his behalf. On Friday, senior intelligence officials will brief Trump on the findings of a full report into the Russian hacking of Democratic groups. The report was ordered by President Barack Obama, who was briefed on the conclusions Thursday.

Against that backdrop, Trump has been considering ways to restructure intelligence agencies to streamline operations and improve efficiency. Transition officials have been looking at changes at both ODNI and the CIA, but those plans are said not to be aimed at gutting the intelligence agencies or hampering their capabilities.

The person said the discussions reflect the views of intelligence officials who have told Trump’s team that there is room for streamlining within the multi-agency intelligence community.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Wednesday night that Trump was considering changes at the intelligence agencies. Trump transition spokesman Sean Spicer disputed the report Thursday morning.

“There is no truth to this idea of restructuring the intelligence community infrastructure. It is 100 percent false,” Spicer said.

The CIA declined to comment on the potential changes. Outgoing National Intelligence Director James Clapper told a Senate panel Thursday that his office has not been engaged in such discussions with the Trump transition team. He noted that lawmakers created his office.

“Congress, I think, gets a vote here,” said Clapper, who was testifying on Russia’s election interference.

Trump’s administration wouldn’t be the first to initiate reforms in the intelligence community.

A few years ago, CIA Director John Brennan ordered sweeping changes to the CIA to make its leaders more accountable and close intelligence gaps amid concern about the agency’s limited insights into a series of major global developments. The aim was to break down barriers between the CIA’s operations and analytical arms.

Coats’ nomination is likely to soothe those who fear Trump will significantly overhaul the intelligence community. The 73-year-old is a Capitol Hill veteran who served eight years in the House before moving to the Senate in 1989 to take Dan Quayle’s place when he became vice president. He stayed in the Senate until 1998, then left to become a lobbyist.

After a stint as ambassador to Germany under President George W. Bush, Coats joined the high-powered Washington firm of King & Spalding. He helped lead the company’s government affairs division and lobbied for pharmaceutical, defense and energy companies.

Coats, who earned $600,000 in his final 13 months at King & Spalding, downplayed his lobbying work when he returned to Indiana for a successful Senate comeback bid in 2010. He served one term and did not seek re-election last year.

Coats was a harsh critic of Russia and pushed the Obama administration to harshly punish Moscow for its annexation of Crimea in 2014. When the White House levied sanctions, the Kremlin responded by banning several lawmakers, including Coats, from traveling to Russia.

Trump has called for improving the relationship between the U.S. and Russia, and has also spoken favorably about Russian President Vladimir Putin. His refusal thus far to accept the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was meddling in the 2016 election has sparked concern among lawmakers in both parties.

Intelligence agencies have concluded that there is no question that Russia was behind hacking of political computer systems — something they say could only have occurred with the approval of top Kremlin officials. That conclusion is detailed in the classified report Obama ordered up on Russia and other foreign influence in U.S. elections dating back to 2008.

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  • This sounds like a good guy but I hope that this kupuna is up to the job. There may be good reasons for his retirement.

    Will he be just a caretaker until Trump’s paranoid military advisors can come up with a guy just as crazy as them and blow up the Muslim world?

  • The Russsians hacked you say?
    So did the Communist Chinese, their attack dog, the NORKS, Iran, and some gnome in a cave in Romania.
    It’s called espionage, and it has been going on since George Washington’s day.
    Where is your indignation over the ongoing Chinese hacking?

    • Tit for Tat as they say.
      All this hacking nonsense is ONLY because the DEMS got caught with their PANTSUIT down exposing how dirty they are amongst themselves…& the COLLUSION with the FAKE NEWS & them.
      As ifefromeli would say bwahhhhhhhhhhhh or something likdat.

    • Waialae-Kahala contributor Malachy Grange asked a very reasonable question: why is the hacking of DNC considered tampering with our democracy, especially since the Russians “did not make up these emails but just revealed what was being kept secret”?

      Three days later Mililani Mauka contributor Peter Chisteckoff came up with this side splitter: “The reason is that the Russian hackers also hacked the Republican National Committee, but nothing from those hacks was leaked.”

      POPPYCOCK!

      Russian cyber warriors were under no obligation to “play fair”. And perhaps the RNC files had little incriminating evidence or were better protected.

      In any case, why is THIS single hack such a big deal as measured against Secretary Clinton’s wanton – – perhaps criminal – – negligence, when FOR YEARS she invited every hostile intelligence service on the planet to gain access to extraordinarily sensitive State Department/CIA traffic by handling it on her entirely unprotected home brew server?

  • “Senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow, according to U.S. officials who said that American intelligence agencies intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election in which Russian officials congratulated themselves on the outcome.

    “The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials — including some who U.S. officials believe had knowledge of the country’s cyber campaign to interfere in the U.S. election — contributed to the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow’s efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Trump win the White House.” — Washington Post

    • Better to cite a credible news source. The WA Post after all also claimed that the Russians hacked into our nation’s power grid. More fake news to come.

      • The Washington Post is reporting on the conclusions of 17 US intelligence agencies and the evidence that supports their conclusions. When you allege that the Post is not a credible news source, are you saying that it misreported what the intelligence agencies said or that the Post’s quotations from that testimony are inaccurate? Or are you saying that the Post is not credible because it accurately reported the conclusions of intelligence agencies that are not credible? If you’re making the former case, where specifically do you think that the Post misreported what the agencies reported to Congress? If you believe the latter, that the Post accurately reported the conclusions of agencies that are not credible, do you agree with Trump that Assange is more credible than US intelligence agencies?

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