It had been rumored for a few days that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was on the way out and just a few minutes ago President Trump, via Twitter, not only confirmed that Coats was leaving but announced a successor (read my colleague Bonchie’s terrific coverage of the rumors earlier today):
….be leaving office on August 15th. I would like to thank Dan for his great service to our Country. The Acting Director will be named shortly.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 28, 2019
The fact that the announcement came by tweet on Sunday afternoon rather than letting Coats announce his own departure gives it the air of “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
Former Indiana Senator Dan Coats was always, in my view, a very strange choice for President Trump to make for the Director of National Intelligence. If you believe there is a swamp in DC, Coats definitely had scales. He has been in Washington since 1976. His acquaintance with the intelligence community is tangential–he served on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He endorsed Marco Rubio and only said he’d support the party’s nominee after Trump clinched the nomination in May 2016. Coats was famous for being a “hawk” on Russia. The point being that Coats brought no unique skills to job. He was hostile-to-lukewarm towards President Trump and there was no doubt that his primary loyalty would always be to the DC status quo. His only unique qualification is that he was well regarded by Democrats and John McCain. Knowing that our relations with Russia…and the bogus allegations of collusion with Russia on the part of Trump’s campaign…were going to be in the bull’s-eye, it was countintuitive to pick a DNI who could be counted upon to not make institutional Washington look bad.
And that’s pretty much what happened.
Coats seem to go out of his way to contradict Trump at every opportunity. As early as January this year, media outlets were already cataloging Coats’s run-ins with Trump and Trump was tweeting about Coats. Coats’s public dissing of Trump made him one of the suspects as the author of the “anonymous” op-ed allegedly written by a cabinet level official in the New York Times that blasted Trump as “amoral” and claimed to be part of “the Resistance.”
Coats may just be tired, but one can’t help but think that the dual investigations by DOJ IG Michael Horowitz and Attorney General Bill Barr’s designated special-counsel-in-all-but-name, John Durham, have, by now fingered a lot of shenanigans on the part of the intelligence community. Not on the NSA role in unmasking US citizens for basically any intern in the Obama White House but what looks like a role in running provocateurs against members of the Trump campaign and coordinating with members of foreign intelligence services to create an illusion of Russian influence upon the Trump campaign. Indeed, the role of CIA Director Gina Haspel in this fiasco is under examination:
America: do not forget that that current CIA director, Gina Haspel, was running the CIA desk in London in 2016 while Alexander Downer (Australia) Joseph Mifsud (Italy) Stefan Halper (CIA), Azra Turk (CIA) and the US embassy were spying on me and trying to sabotage Donald Trump.
— George Papadopoulos (@GeorgePapa19) June 18, 2019
We know a fight is looming over the declassification and public release of documents related to the Russia hoax. It may be that Coats is seen as unwilling or reluctant to aid the investigation and declassification…something that would be a near certainty with a company man like Coats.
What shows a new sheriff is definitely in town is the nomination of John Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe has been a federal anti-terrorism prosecutor. He defeated at 17-term GOP incumbent to win his seat. He’s a member of the House Intelligence Committee. He’s a staunch critic of the Russia hoax. And he smoked Robert Mueller like a cheap cigar last Wednesday (see John Ratcliffe: President Trump Is Not Above The Law But He Is Not Below It).
RATCLIFFE: The special counsel did not make what you call a traditional prosecution or declination decision, the report on the bottom of page two of Volume II reads as follows, ‘The evidence we obtained about the president’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’ I read that correctly?
RATCLIFFE: Your report…and today you said “at all times the Special Counsel team operated under, was guided by, and followed Justice Department policies and principles. So, which DOJ policy or principle sets forth a legal standard that an investigated person is ‘not exonerated’ if their innocence from criminal conduct is not conclusively determined?
MUELLER: Can you repeat the last part of that question?
RATCLIFFE: Yeah. Which DOJ policy or principle sets forth a legal standard that an investigated person is ‘not exonerated’ if their innocence from criminal conduct is not conclusively determined? Where does that language come from, director? Where is the DOJ policy that says that? Let me make it easier. Can you give me an example other than Donald Trump where the Justice Department determined that an investigated person was not exonerated because their innocence was not conclusively determined?
MUELLER: I cannot, but this is a unique situation.
Indeed, coups d’etat are all unique situations.
RATCLIFFE: You can’t. Time is short, I’ve got five minutes. Let’s just leave it at you can’t find it, because I will tell you why: It doesn’t exist. In the special counsel’s job nowhere does it say that you were to conclusively determine Donald Trump’s innocence or that the special counsel should determine whether or not to exonerate him. It’s not in any of the documents, it’s not in your appointment order, it’s not in the special counsel regulations, it’s not the OLC opinions, it’s not the justice manual or the principles of federal prosecution.
Nowhere do those words appear together because respectfully, respectfully, director, it was not the special counsel’s job to conclusively determine Donald Trump’s innocence or exonerate him because the bedrock principle of our justice system is a presumption of innocence. It exists for everyone. Everyone is entitled to it, including sitting presidents. And because there is a presumption of innocence, prosecutors never ever need to conclusively determine it. Now director, the special counsel applied this inverted burden of proof that I can’t find and you said it doesn’t exist anywhere in the department policies and you used it to write a report.
The very first line of your report says, as you read this morning, it authorizes the Special Counsel to provide the Attorney General a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel. That’s the very first words of your report, right?
RATCLIFFE: Here’s the problem, Director. The Special Counsel didn’t do that. On Volume I, you did. On Volume II, with respect to potential obstruction of justice, the Special Counsel made neither a prosecution decision nor a declination decision. You made no decision. You told us this morning and in your report that you made no determination. So respectfully, Director, you didn’t follow the Special Counsel regulations. It clearly says write a confidential report about decisions reached. Nowhere in here does it say write a report about decisions that weren’t reached. You wrote 180 pages, 180 pages about decisions that weren’t reached. About potential crimes that weren’t charged or decided. And respectfully, respectfully, by doing that you managed to violate every principle and the most sacred of traditions about prosecutors not offering extra-prosecutorial analysis about potential crimes that aren’t charged. So, Americans need to know this as they listen to the Democrats and socialists on the other side of the aisle as they do dramatic readings from this report.
Volume II of this report was not authorized under the law to be written. It was written to a legal standard that does not exist at the Justice Department and it was written in violation of every DOJ principle about extra-prosecutorial commentary. I agree with the chairman this morning when he said Donald Trump is not above the law. He’s not. But he damn sure shouldn’t be below the law, which is where Volume II of this report put him.
This was awesome but more than one True Conservative TM who had never tried a case was appalled by Ratcliffe’s lack of knowledge about how real prosecutors really operate.
This is some of the stupidity that has already been aimed at Ratcliffe
by comparison, James Clapper seems to have been involved in an attempt to force an elected president from office. John Ratcliffe hasn't.
— streiff (@streiffredstate) July 28, 2019
Ratcliffe will have his work cut out for him. He will have a workforce that has a sizeable number of loyal Democrats in it senior management. The institutions are going to try to protect even the worst actors because they are a fraternity. Unless Ratcliffe is damned careful, he will be torpedoed the way Porter Goss was at CIA. And let’s not forget this bit of advice from Chuck Schumer:
"He's being really dumb to do this." -Senator Schumer on Trump taunting US intelligence agencies https://t.co/QbGSmx9Xvp
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) January 4, 2017
But with the support of the White House, perhaps we can remind the intelligence community that their job is providing good information to the National Command Authority and keeping this nation safe. It isn’t eavesdropping on political campaigns or dangling honeypots in front of staffers from a campaign you are hostile to and it certainly isn’t trying to engineer a coup d’etat against a president.