Trump picks ex-senator for intelligence director

Former Indiana senator Dan Coats was an ambassador and also served on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Former Indiana senator Dan Coats was an ambassador and also served on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

WASHINGTON • President-elect Donald Trump has formally announced former Indiana senator Dan Coats as his pick for United States director of national intelligence.

A mild-mannered former ambassador to Germany who also served on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr Coats had been widely tipped for the job coordinating 16 intelligence and security agencies.

"Dan has clearly demonstrated the deep subject matter expertise and sound judgment required to lead our intelligence community," Mr Trump said in a statement last Saturday. "If confirmed as Director of National Intelligence, he will provide unwavering leadership that the entire intelligence community can respect."

The announcement came a day after the President-elect met the country's leading intelligence agency chiefs - including the current director of national intelligence, Mr James Clapper, and Central Intelligence Agency chief John Brennan - who told him that Russian President Vladimir Putin had directed a vast cyber attack against mainly Democratic organisations aimed at helping install Mr Trump in the White House.

Although Mr Trump accepted the possibility that Moscow had been involved in hacking US targets, including the Democratic National Committee, he held fast to his rejection of the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia had interfered in the election.

He took to Twitter last Saturday to blame Democrats for the hacking, accusing the Democratic National Committee of "gross negligence."

Mr Trump also promised again to improve relations with Russia. "Only 'stupid' people, or fools, would think that it is bad!" he wrote.

But the selection of Mr Coats, 73, may go some way towards reassuring those critical of Mr Trump's desire to improve relations with Moscow.

Mr Coats - who served as a Republican senator from Indiana from 1989 to 1999, and then from 2011 to the end of his term last Tuesday - was one of six US legislators and three White House aides blacklisted by Moscow in 2014 in reprisal for US sanctions placed on the country for its seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2017, with the headline 'Trump picks ex-senator for intelligence director'. Print Edition | Subscribe