Donald Trump hopes to ax Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Axios reported Friday morning.
Coats is responsible for coordinating the work of the national intelligence community across agencies, serves an adviser to Trump and the National Security Council, and produces the President’s Daily Brief that has been reduced down to an assemblage of slogans and flashy graphs in the hope of commanding even a moment of Trump’s toddler attention span.
Trump has reportedly decided that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence—which was formalized in 2005 as a result of intelligence reforms following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks—is “an unnecessary bureaucratic layer.” Who needs the President’s Daily Brief anyway? Certainly not Trump.
The real deal is that Coats is actually trying to do a competent job in an administration that despises and repels competence. Trump is pissy about an episode in 2018 that you may recall, when Coats learned in the midst of a televised interview that Trump had invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to the White House. “Okay,” Coats responded, giggling, “that’s going to be special.” Trump’s diplomatic misfire ultimately fell through.
Coats has also been relatively honest when appearing before congressional panels, including his assessment earlier this year that North Korea was unlikely to abandon its nuclear weapons.
But more than that, Coats has also made election security a top priority for his office, especially with the vacuum of leadership left by the White House on the matter. In fact, intelligence officials just finished up election security briefings with congressional lawmakers in which they outlined their approach to preventing foreign interference in the 2020 cycle.
“Just like our successful, whole-of-government approach to securing the 2018 elections, we will work together with our Federal, state, local and private sector partners as well as our foreign allies to protect the 2020 elections and maintain transparency with the American public about our efforts,” Coats and other officials said Wednesday in a press release. If there’s anything Trump surely doesn’t want, it’s a successful “whole-of-government approach” to blocking foreign meddling in 2020.
Trump has been floating the name of Fred Fleitz as a replacement for Coats, saying he’s heard “great things.” Fleitz was John Bolton’s chief of staff on the National Security Counsel, so that might be one source of Fleitz’s “great” reviews.
But more importantly for Trump, Fleitz went on Lou Dobbs’ Fox Business show to criticize Coats’ congressional testimony on North Korea and call for his ouster over his “second-guessing” of Trump. Oh, and in 2017, Fleitz also called the intelligence assessment about Russian interference “rigged.”
“I don’t use this word lightly, I think this assessment was rigged,” Fleitz said. “I think it was rigged to come up with the most negative conclusion possible to hurt Mr. Trump. … I think it was fabricated.”
In an op-ed on FoxNews.com in January 2017, Fleitz similarly wrote, “I also suspect the entire purpose of this report and its timing was to provide President Obama with a supposedly objective intelligence report on Russian interference in the 2016 election that the president could release before he left office to undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s election.”
Let’s face it, Fleitz is a shoo-in. Trump’s angling downward toward another loyalist and fellow conspiracy theorist—always the worst, least informed people, who can inflict maximum harm on the functionality of the U.S. government.