Dan Coats (pictured) has advisable former Rep. Mike Rogers, one other Michigan Republican and former Home Intelligence chairman, an ex-intelligence official advised POLITICO. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Photos
The record of certified and prepared potential replacements for Director of Nationwide Intelligence Dan Coats is a short one, veterans of the spying and nationwide safety world say.
Dan Coats reported for his final day because the nation’s spy chief on Thursday. His skilled deputy is out the door too, leaving an performing director with solely restricted intelligence background set to take the reins.
And deep uncertainty lingers about who will get President Donald Trump’s nod to fill the job completely.
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The departure of Coats leaves solely a brief record of certified — and prepared — candidates to function the director of nationwide intelligence, at the same time as threats from Russia, Iran and elsewhere proceed to mount.
Essentially the most talked-about contenders, intelligence and nationwide safety veterans say, embrace former Michigan Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who has gotten reward from Trump regardless of the sometimes-rocky reception he’s acquired in his present position as U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands.
Coats himself has advisable former Rep. Mike Rogers, one other Michigan Republican and former Home Intelligence chairman, an ex-intelligence official advised POLITICO. Different potentialities embrace California Rep. Devin Nunes, a detailed Trump ally who has been a divisive determine as each the chairman and the rating Republican on the Home Intelligence Committee.
Potential nominees whose names have surfaced additionally embrace Kevin Meiners, a senior official in Coats’ workplace; Fred Fleitz, a former CIA analyst who served as nationwide safety adviser John Bolton’s chief of workers; and Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the highest Republican on the Home Overseas Affairs Committee.
Trump and White Home officers have mentioned the president has an inventory of three candidates he meant to contemplate for the job however have not revealed the names. The president has a historical past of maintaining his picks for Cupboard-level personnel carefully guarded, which means there may very well be extra into consideration or a darkish horse contender might emerge.
For now, Coats’ position shall be crammed by Joseph Maguire, head of the Nationwide Counterterrorism Heart, who is about to develop into the performing director of the Workplace of Nationwide Intelligence on Thursday till the Senate approves Trump’s eventual nominee. That course of has already confirmed problematic — Trump’s first choose, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), dropped out after he acquired scant help from his fellow Republicans amid questions on whether or not the congressman had exaggerated his resume.
Former nationwide safety and intelligence officers who spoke to POLITICO mentioned that no matter whom Trump names, the nominee ought to possess a historical past of being apolitical — or at the very least bipartisan. The particular person additionally wants to grasp the enterprise of managing the 17 civilian and navy companies that make up the nation’s intelligence equipment, comparable to price range choices about the place to commit analysts and sources or the place to launch the following billion-dollar spy satellite tv for pc, and should command the respect of organizations just like the CIA and NSA.
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“Persons are going to be paying particularly shut consideration to who it’s and whether or not or not that particular person has any historical past of substantive engagement with intelligence, both as a client or as a practitioner,” mentioned Katrina Mulligan, managing director for nationwide safety and worldwide coverage on the liberal Heart for American Progress, who spent 9 years as a senior official within the ODNI.
Trump talked about Hoekstra final week after asserting the departure of Coats’ No. 2, Sue Gordon, who had been in line to imagine the position of performing director.
“He is nice,” Trump mentioned of the previous congressman. “He is doing a incredible job within the Netherlands proper now.”
The reward prompt to these following the nomination that Hoekstra is main the small pack of potential DNI picks.
Hoekstra took some early flak within the Netherlands after turning into ambassador there in 2017, making unfounded claims concerning the “Islamic motion” sowing unrest in Dutch cities after which denying he had made the videotaped remarks.
Inside the intelligence group, Hoekstra is seen “as extra a partisan” selection than another potential candidates, based on a former ODNI official. The official additionally famous that Hoekstra chaired the Intelligence Committee from 2004 to 2007 and was its rating member from 2007 to 2011, in an period earlier than Russia’s resurgence, the rise of digital warfare and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s devastating leaks concerning the authorities’s most secret spying packages.
“So much has modified since then,” the previous official mentioned.
Even by Coats advisable Rogers, it’s unclear how a lot weight the suggestion will carry with Trump. The president routinely, and publicly, disparaged the evaluation supplied by Coats and the remainder of the intelligence group, particularly over Moscow’s interference within the 2016 election.
Rogers, a former FBI agent, in all probability meets the of somebody who will not be seen as a partisan and has a background in nationwide safety, the previous ODNI official advised POLITICO.
“He’s a Republican however he’s not any individual who has been recognized as a rabid defender of the president. He was very efficient because the [House Intelligence] chair and fairly well-respected inside the intelligence group,” the previous official mentioned. Rogers’ time as chairman additionally “gave him a level of publicity to the nuts and bolts of intelligence and the authorities of the DNI.”
Rogers has different supporters inside the intelligence group. Doug Smart, a retired CIA officer and former deputy director of the Protection Intelligence Company, mentioned the nation “can be exceptionally well-served if Trump was to nominate him because the DNI.”
“That will be a really comforting appointment to many people within the IC and formers like myself who actually fear about this appointment,” mentioned Smart, who interacted with Rogers because the CIA’s chief of station in Iraq after which because the company’s chief of operational coaching.
He mentioned Rogers was a “probative chairman” who may very well be “very, very exhausting on us, very demanding, [and] had excessive requirements for appearances and for compliance with oversight, however on the similar time he was particularly reasonable and he was very supportive.”
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, who labored alongside Rogers for 4 years as the highest Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, mentioned the previous congressman “understands that there isn’t any room for politics relating to our nationwide safety. He’s powerful, he’s honest and he’s impartial — he’ll communicate fact to energy.”
In an announcement, Rogers mentioned he was “honored” if Coats “considered me in that approach.”
Some intelligence veterans dismissed the potential for Nunes getting the nod, regardless of his shut ties to the president.
“Nunes would by no means be capable of get confirmed,” the previous ODNI official mentioned, including “most individuals” contained in the White Home acknowledge he can be a non-starter within the Senate. “The issue could also be that there’s one one that doesn’t,” which means Trump.
Others downplayed the potential for Trump going with Fleitz, the previous CIA analyst. He left his White Home submit final 12 months to function president and CEO of the Heart for Safety Coverage, a far-right assume tank that has been important of “radical Islam.”
Former officers didn’t rule out the chance that Trump would simply select to appoint Maguire, who has already been confirmed by the Senate, to be DNI.
Maguire, a former Navy SEAL who retired as a vice admiral, “can be fairly well-received inside the intelligence group,” based on the previous ODNI official, noting that a lot would depend upon how his relationship with Trump fares over the approaching weeks or months.
Nonetheless, Mulligan of the Heart for American Progress disagreed, saying Maguire “doesn’t know the very first thing about working the [intelligence community]. He’s a particular ops man with a [counterterrorism background] which is just a sliver of what the IC is all about.”
Trump has supplied no timeline for a way lengthy Maguire would keep within the performing position. “I’m in no rush as a result of now we have an excellent performing [director],” he mentioned final week.
The president additionally mentioned he was talking with the Senate Intelligence Committee about quite a few candidates. “I need to get any individual that everyone can actually come along with,” Trump mentioned.
One other former intelligence official mentioned the dearth of urgency — following the five-day whirlwind that surrounded Ratcliffe’s aborted candidacy — reveals that “the blowback was so sturdy and ample” that the administration is altering course and has “taken on the suggestions concerning the significance of getting somebody who has sturdy expertise working in intelligence-related fields.”
Trump particularly has gotten “the message he’s not going to have the ability to set up a purely ‘sure man’ or ‘sure lady’ in that place,” the official advised POLITICO.
The official warned in opposition to maintaining an performing spymaster for too lengthy, although, in order that coverage choices might be made inside the clandestine group and to make sure its pursuits are represented within the administration.
“Given the quick tempo of change and the issues occurring within the present nationwide safety setting it’s going to be necessary to have somebody who feels the possession and the complete duty of being in that place and does not really feel like they’re simply holding all of the items collectively,” the official mentioned.
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