WASHINGTON DC, USA (UPDATED) – President-elect Donald Trump on Saturday, January 7, formally announced former Indiana Senator Dan Coats as his pick for US director of national intelligence.
A mild-mannered former ambassador to Germany who also served on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Coats was widely tipped for the job coordinating 16 intelligence and security agencies – a position Trump may slim down.
"Dan has clearly demonstrated the deep subject matter expertise and sound judgment required to lead our intelligence community," Trump said in a statement.
"If confirmed as Director of National Intelligence, he will provide unwavering leadership that the entire intelligence community can respect, and will spearhead my administration’s ceaseless vigilance against those who seek to do us harm."
The announcement comes a day after the Republican president-elect met the country's leading intelligence agency chiefs – including the current director of national intelligence, James Clapper, and CIA chief John Brennan – who told him that Russian President Vladimir Putin directed a vast cyberattack against mainly Democratic organizations aimed at helping install Trump in the White House.
Trump accuses Democrats
Although Trump accepted the possibility that Moscow was involved in hacking US targets including the Democratic National Committee, the president-elect held fast to his rejection of the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia interfered in the election after telling the New York Times before the meeting that the accusations are part of a "political witch-hunt" against him.
He took to Twitter on Saturday to blame Democrats for the hacking, accusing the Democratic National Committee of "gross negligence."
"Only reason the hacking of the poorly defended DNC is discussed is that the loss by the Dems was so big that they are totally embarrassed!"
He repeated his view that the intelligence findings show "absolutely no evidence" any hacking affected the election results. "Voting machines not touched!"
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 Coats, 73, may go some way toward reassuring those critical of Trump's praise for Putin and stated desire to improve relations with Moscow.
Blacklisted by Moscow
Coats – who served as a Republican senator from Indiana from 1989 to 1999, and then from 2011 to the end of his term on 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.
The former senator, who had advocated tough sanctions against Moscow, has called the ban an honor.
He was US ambassador to Germany from 2001 to 2005 under the George W. Bush administration, and served on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as well as economy-related committees during the past six years.
He welcomed his nomination on Saturday.
"There is no higher priority than keeping America safe, and I will utilize every tool at my disposal to make that happen," he said in a statement.
His nomination will have to pass Senate confirmation.
Created after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the DNI oversees coordination between disparate agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and others, acting as the president's principal adviser on their work.
US media reported earlier this week that Trump's transition team is working on a plan to scale down the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
However, the incoming White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, has called the reports "false." – Rappler.com