Politics

‘He’ll Be Gone’ — Trump Considering Replacing DNI Dan Coats

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Amber Athey White House Correspondent

President Donald Trump is considering replacing Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, two sources familiar with the situation confirmed to the Daily Caller on Friday.

Axios  first reported the news on Friday, with five sources telling the news outlet that the president has been floating the idea of getting rid of Coats for months, and one source suggested the change could happen “sooner rather than later.”

“It’s time for a change. Dan’s a great guy but the president doesn’t listen to him anymore,” one government source told Axios.

“He’ll be gone,” a source confirmed to the Caller, asserting that the president has a list of potential replacements.

Fred Fleitz, the president and CEO of the Center for Security Policy and a former chief of staff to John Bolton, is being considered for the position. A source with knowledge told the Caller that Trump first raised the idea to Fleitz during a meeting in February, and cited Fleitz’s opposition to a war with Iran as one potential sticking point for the president.

“That’s been a big rift in the Republican Party,” the source explained, noting that Trump campaigned on getting the U.S. out of endless wars.

“I don’t want a war with Iran,” Fleitz told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson in late June. “I know that this president was elected to get us out of wars and not to start new wars. The president was right to pull us out of the fraudulent nuclear deal with Iran.”

The president was also reportedly interested in eliminating the Office of the Director of National Intelligence entirely, but was told it is not politically possible. Instead, he now is looking at ways to “downsize” the agency.

Coats issued the following statement in response to Axios’ report that his job may be in danger:

“I am focused on doing my job, and it is frustrating to repeatedly be asked to respond to anonymous sources and unsubstantiated, often false rumors that undercut the critical work of the Intelligence Community and its relationship with the President. I am proud to lead an IC singularly focused on the vital mission of providing timely and unbiased intelligence to President Trump, Vice President Pence and the national security team in support of our nation’s security”

Coats joined the administration in March 2017 and has since angered the president on multiple occasions, including when he contradicted Trump on Russian meddling in Helsinki last July. Coats then reacted awkwardly at the Aspen Security Forum when he found out that Trump was planning a second summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin. (RELATED: Coats Walks Back Aspen Remarks On Trump-Putin Summit)

“Say that again,” Coats responded to the news, laughing. “Did I hear you? OK, that’s going to be special.”

Coats apologized for that reaction, saying he did not intend to disrespect the president.

A source familiar cited that incident as the “beginning of the end” for Coats.

“His performance at the Aspen Institute … it did not go unnoticed,” the source asserted. “He was around all of these people who hate Trump, and he wanted to be loved, and he decided to be snarky about the president, and it was a big mistake.”

This piece has been updated with additional reporting.