Dan Coats To Depart As Director Of National Intelligence The departure of the director of national intelligence means that almost every senior member of President Trump's original national security team is gone from his or her job.

Dan Coats, Who Challenged President Trump, Is Ousted From Top Intelligence Job

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Well, what prompted the departure of President Trump's intelligence chief now? Here's NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: President Trump and the intelligence community often seem out of sync, and this often put Dan Coats in an awkward spot. Coats granted a rare interview last year to NBC's Andrea Mitchell. In midconversation, she informed Coats of a breaking story.

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ANDREA MITCHELL: The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.

DAN COATS: Say that again?

(LAUGHTER)

MYRE: Coats took a deep breath to process the news, then added...

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COATS: OK.

MITCHELL: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

COATS: That's going to be special.

(LAUGHTER)

MYRE: The Russian leader never actually made that trip. But this moment captured how Trump and the country's top intelligence chief were not exactly on the same page. Early this year, Trump declared that North Korea and its nuclear program were no longer a threat. Coats then testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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COATS: We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities.

MYRE: After that hearing, Trump met with Coats and other senior intelligence leaders. The president was later asked why the remarks seemed so at odds with his positions.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They said that they were totally misquoted, and they were totally - it was taken out of context. And what I'd do is I'd suggest that you call them. They said it was fake news.

MYRE: Coats previously served as a Republican senator from Indiana. His low-key, avuncular manner once prompted a colleague to dub him the Mr. Rogers of the Senate. He operated mostly behind the scenes as director of national intelligence, a position that oversees the country's 17 intelligence agencies. But he did meet often with Trump. Coats and CIA director Gina Haspel were regulars at the president's intelligence briefing, held most weekday mornings at the White House.

Vince Houghton, the historian at the International Spy Museum, says Coats deserves high marks in one key area.

VINCE HOUGHTON: He's been someone who's willing to tell the truth, even if the policymaker's actually expecting the main consumer - and that's the president of the United States - to not like what he has to hear.

MYRE: Trump and Vladimir Putin held a summit last year in Helsinki, Finland. In the press conference that followed, the U.S. president questioned whether Russia interfered with the 2016 election. Coats responded with a blunt statement saying, quote, "We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy." Trump says his nominee to replace Coats will be John Ratcliffe, a Republican congressman from Texas. Ratcliffe sharply criticized special counsel Robert Mueller when he testified last week.

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JOHN RATCLIFFE: I agree with the chairman this morning when he said Donald Trump is not above the law. He's not, but he damn sure shouldn't be below the law, which is where Volume II of this report puts him.

MYRE: Ratcliffe hasn't worked in the intelligence community, but he has prosecuted terrorism cases, and he is a staunch supporter of the president.

Greg Myre, NPR News, Washington.

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