Former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats has an extraordinarily demanding job. He seems to be handling the pressure well.
Some who have known Coats through his long career as a congressman, U.S. senator and diplomat were surprised he signed on as President Donald Trump's director of national intelligence. Not that Coats wasn't prepared for the job – in addition to 41/2 years as ambassador to Germany, he had served on the Senate Intelligence Committee. But Coats, who had declined to run for re-election to the Senate in 2016, was 73 years old when Trump offered him the intelligence post and, it was said, had been planning to start enjoying a well-earned retirement.
Since then, most of Coats' work has been done out of the public eye, as might be expected of someone who oversees multiple international spying operations. But few in the Trump administration have been able to completely avoid the continuing “drama,” as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell once called it.
Last summer, there were reports the president asked Coats, among others, to help dissuade former FBI Director James Comey from investigating former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. In an appearance before Congress, Coats testified he had never been pressured by the White House, though he declined to reveal his conversations with Trump.
The White House has consistently played down allegations that the Russians were cyber-sabotaging the United States. But in February testimony submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Coats was clear about threats from Russia as well as North Korea, China and Iran. “Frankly, the United States is under attack,” he wrote. “Under attack by entities that are using cyber to penetrate virtually every major action that takes place in the United States.”
That includes our elections, Coats stressed: “There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”
There are many theories about why the president has balked at accepting and acting decisively on such informed assessments of Russian interference from Coats and others in his administration.
But when a Hoosier tells it like it is, smart people listen.