WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has grown increasingly disenchanted with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who has served as the nation's top intelligence official nearly two years, leading some administration officials to worry he will soon be dismissed, according to people familiar with the matter.
The president has never seen Coats as a close or trusted adviser, the people said, but he has become more frustrated with him in recent weeks over public statements that Trump sees as undercutting his policy goals, particularly with respect to reaching a disarmament agreement with North Korea.
The people familiar with the matter, who like others interviewed for this report spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, did not believe that Coats would be fired immediately but said Trump is considering removing him. They also noted that Trump sometimes grows angry with officials but stops short of dismissing them.
Trump is still “enraged” about Coats' congressional testimony on national security threats last month, believing that the director undercut the president's authority when he shared intelligence assessments about Iran, North Korea and the Islamic State that are at odds with many of Trump's public statements, said one adviser who spoke with the president over the weekend.
Trump had seemed to put the episode behind him and claimed shortly after the hearing that Coats and CIA Director Gina Haspel told him they'd been “misquoted” in their comments at the televised hearing.
But privately, the president has continued to fume, and this weekend he told the adviser that Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana, is “not loyal” and that “he's not on the team.”
A White House official separately said Trump has recently complained about Coats' public statements, which he believed had undermined him. Another White House official said the president's frustration was real but that he likely wouldn't be fired anytime soon.
At the intelligence director's headquarters in northern Virginia, there was no sense that Coats' termination was imminent, said a former senior intelligence official who spoke with people there Tuesday morning.
Trump has been asking confidantes for suggestions on who could replace Coats, according to the adviser.
In venting his anger at Coats, the president was following a familiar pattern that precedes his dismissal of Cabinet officials. Trump often grouses about disloyalty with the understanding that his interlocutors will speak to reporters, thereby putting the offending official on notice that their days are numbered.
A spokesman for Coats declined to comment.