Tag Archives: DNI

National intelligence network takes another hit

The director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, is heading for the door Thursday. He served the nation with diligence and distinction. He spoke the truth about the threats to the nation.

The president of the United States, Donald Trump, didn’t listen to him. Coats will be gone very soon.

So, too, will his No. 2, the deputy director of national intelligence, Sue Gordon, a career CIA official. She’s a pro. Gordon also served for many years in the national intelligence network with supreme diligence.

Gordon is leaving office along with Coats.

What is wrong with this picture? Plenty. I now will explain briefly.

The DNI office now is without its top two intelligence officials. Coats is a politician, having served in the U.S. House and Senate before taking on the DNI job in the Trump administration. However, he stood behind the intelligence professionals who determined without equivocation that Russians attacked our electoral system in 2016 and are doing so yet again in advance of the 2020 presidential election.

Coats butted heads with Donald Trump. He “spoke truth to power.” The man with the power, Trump, isn’t hearing it.

As for Gordon, custom dictated that she would have stepped into the DNI spot as the acting director. She, though, took the advice of intelligence pros and submitted her resignation.

Trump now has Joseph Maguire as acting DNI. He comes from a counterintelligence agency. He could be a solid choice, but he lacks the overarching background that Sue Gordon would have brought to the office … had she chosen to stay on in the Trump administration.

Ladies and gents, we have a leadership vacuum at the top of our nation’s intelligence apparatus. As for the president, he continues to demonstrate utter cluelessness on how he intends to protect us from hostile powers that are threatening the integrity of our very system of government.

How on Earth does this POTUS do the right thing?

U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe’s decision to pull out of the director of national intelligence job puts Donald John Trump squarely in the middle of a quandary he seems to have no interest in solving.

Trump selected the toadie Ratcliffe — a Northeast Texas congressman — to succeed Dan Coats as DNI, only to face a storm of criticism over Ratcliffe’s partisan leanings and allegations that he embellished his resume. Trump blamed the media for doing their job in “vetting” this individual.

Ratcliffe is out. Coats will be gone Aug. 15. Who will fill the vital job as head of the nation’s intelligence network? How in the world does this president do the right thing and find someone who (a) is willing to work for Donald Trump and (b) would provide Trump with the critical analysis of the existential security threats to the nation.

More to the point, how does Trump resist the impulse to rely on those who tell him what he wants to hear and ignores what he needs to hear?

Coats and other intelligence chiefs said the same thing: Russia attacked our election in 2016. Trump has dismissed them. Indeed, just this week he said former special counsel Robert Mueller — who said yet again that the Russians posed a serious threat to our electoral system — didn’t know what he was talking about.

The heads of the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency, the Joint Chiefs of Staff all have said the same thing: The Russians attacked us.

Coats spoke “truth to power.” Ratcliffe spoke quite the opposite.

What in the world is Donald Trump going to do to fill this job? He needs critical thinking. He needs to hear the truth. He needs to be told where the threats exist and he needs to consider strategies to protect our system against further assaults from Russia and perhaps other hostile powers.

Who in the world is willing to provide what the president of the United States won’t accept?

OK, Mr. President, look for a legitimate DNI nominee

Donald J. Trump has yanked John Ratcliffe’s name from consideration as the next Director of National Intelligence.

Ratcliffe, the congressman from Northeast Texas who also happens to be a staunch — damn near rabid — Trump supporter, had no business being considered for the top job in our nation’s vast intelligence-gathering and analysis network.

Why? Because he demonstrated a palpable disregard for the work done by Robert Mueller, the former special counsel who has said categorically that Russians attacked our electoral system in  2016 and were poised to do it again in 2020.

Ratcliffe, moreover, reportedly embellished his resume, suggesting he had taken part in anti-terror operations while serving as U.S. attorney in East Texas when he did no such thing.

Trump, though, said the media would “slander and libel” him, and suggested that Ratcliffe remain in Congress.

Hey, here’s an idea for the president to consider. He ought to find someone with the gravitas of the outgoing DNI, former U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, who is leaving because he and Trump had disagreements over the very thing we’ve been discussing here: the Russian threat to our democratic process. Coats blames the Russians for behaving with evil intent; Trump sides with the Russians. Game over for DNI Coats.

Oh, wait! Just how does the president find a grownup such as Coats to take over the DNI job if he’s going to insist that the intelligence presented to him is phony, that it’s wrong and that the Russians aren’t doing what the spooks are telling him?

Ratcliffe wasn’t qualified for the DNI job, the alleged embellishment notwithstanding. The POTUS needs a DNI to tell him what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear.

As for the media that did their job, they performed a valuable public service in outing Ratcliffe as a Donald Trump toadie who wasn’t up to the job.

Trump can’t stomach being told the truth

Donald Trump’s decision to nominate John Ratcliffe as the country’s next Director of National Intelligence reveals a frightening, outrageous aspect of how the president wants to run our national security network … as if we didn’t see this already.

Ratcliffe is a congressman from Northeast Texas, representing a district once represented by the late, great Sam Rayburn. Ratcliffe would succeed Dan Coats as DNI and would be charged — according to the playbook — with providing the president unvarnished analysis of the threats to the nation’s security.

Ratcliffe is not wired that way. Coats has done it, as have many of the preceding DNIs who have held the office.

Trump wants a “loyalist,” someone who likely adheres to his own idiotic view that the Russian hack of our 2016 election is a “hoax” cooked up by the “fake news” and Democratic opponents.

Can there be anything more inherently frightening than to have a DNI who cannot or will not tell the president the truth? More to the point, can there be anything more dangerous to the nation to have a president who won’t hear the truth?

Rep. Ratcliffe showed his partisan stripes while questioning former special counsel Robert Mueller this past week. He challenged Mueller’s probe into the Russian electoral attack. As some commentators have noted, Ratcliffe appeared to be auditioning for the nomination once it became known that DNI Coats would be “stepping down.”

For the ever-lovin’ life of me I cannot grasp how this president continues to lie, deceive and flim-flam his way through the duties to which he has been charged. Even more astonishing is how he manages to cling to that 38 to 40 percent core of Americans who insist he is “telling it like it is” and speaks for them.

John Ratcliffe comes from that fervent base of Trump supporters. The nation does not need a Trump lackey in the post of DNI, which requires someone who is unafraid to tell the president the hard truth about the existential threats that put this country in danger.

If the president has a vast reservoir of talent waiting for the call to come to work in the White House — which he boasts of having — he can do a lot better than John Ratcliffe as head of the nation’s intelligence apparatus.

My fear, though, is that he doesn’t care about quality. It’s all about political loyalty.

Dangerous.

Tepid GOP response to DNI pick might signal an actual break

What in the name of critical thinking is going on here?

Might there be a glimmer of hope that Republican U.S. senators are willing finally — finally! — to break ranks from behind their fellow Republican, the guy in the White House?

Reports are surfacing that Republican response to Donald Trump’s pick to be the next director of national intelligence is, shall we say, a bit tepid. GOP senators reportedly are saddened by the departure of DNI Dan Coats, who once served with them in the U.S. Senate. They have said much about Coats, but hardly anything about U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, who is Trump’s selection as a successor to Coats.

Hmm. Why do you suppose that’s the case?

It might be that the Northeast Texas cheerleader for Trump is packed a bit too snugly into the president’s hip pocket.

I remain committed in the hope that senators who will question Ratcliffe during his confirmation hearing will ask him whether he believes, as Coats does, that Russians attacked our election in 2016 or whether he stands with Donald Trump’s phony assertion that it’s a “hoax.”

I get this sinking, gut-wrenching feeling that Ratcliffe’s fealty to Trump will not allow him to state the plainly obvious, which is that the Russians interfered on behalf of Trump in 2016 and are working hard to do the same thing in 2020. That’s the view of the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Joint Chiefs of Staff … and the Director of National Intelligence. Donald Trump is hearing none of that.

The DNI, who is the nation’s top intelligence official, should be required to tell the president what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear. Donald Trump must hear from the DNI where the existential threats to our national security are coming from. Coats and other intelligence experts told the nation that Russia presented that threat in 2016 and are doing so now.

Will the new DNI, if it’s John Ratcliffe, be willing to offer the same hard-boiled advice?

My gut tells me that Donald Trump won’t hear it even if the DNI offers it, which is why he might be looking for a blind loyalist to fill a job that requires clear-headed analysis on threats to our nation.

Mr. Sam might be spinning in his grave

An item has been brought to my attention, so I want to share it with you here.

The fellow set to be nominated as the nation’s next director of national intelligence now serves the Fourth Congressional District of Texas, which once was served by one of the great Texas politicians of all time, three-time U.S. House Speaker Sam Rayburn.

The current congressman, John Ratcliffe, will be named soon to succeed Dan Coats, who is, um, “stepping down” as DNI. It seems that Coats and Donald John Trump have had some serious differences of opinion over the Russians’ role in the hacking of our election system in 2016. Coats says the Russians did it: Trump sides with the Russians who deny doing it.

Enter the newest DNI, Rep. Ratcliffe.

To be fair, Ratcliffe’s national intelligence credentials are no skimpier than those that Dan Coats brought into the office. Coats, though, proved to be one of the few mature grownups to serve the Trump administration.

The jury is still out on Ratcliffe, a fervent, strident, ardent supporter of Trump. I await the questioning from senators who will ask whether he supports the Coats view of Russian hacking or the Trump view that it was all a “hoax.”

As for the Rayburn legacy, I’ve had the pleasure of writing a blog post for KETR-FM, the public radio station based at Texas A&M-Commerce, the talks about the Rayburn Library and Museum in Bonham. You can see the KETR piece here.

While touring the exhibit, I found a statement attributed to Mr. Sam, the legendary Democrat, that I believe is quite fitting in today’s climate. He says it is better to always “tell the truth” because you never have to worry about what you say.

Ratcliffe is set to join a presidential administration that seems to consider truth-telling to be some sort of sin, a sign of weakness.

How would Speaker Rayburn react to that? I sense he might be doing cartwheels in his grave at this very moment.

DNI is the latest to jump the sinking ship?

Imagine my (non)surprise to hear that Dan Coats is “stepping down” from his job as director of national intelligence in the Donald J. Trump administration.

The president has made damn few appointments that I could endorse. Coats was one of them. Coats, a former Indiana U.S. senator House member, is an establishment Republican with valuable political contacts/friendships/alliances in Washington, D.C. He served as a key bridge between the renegade president and the political pros who run things on Capitol Hill.

He also is a serious policy hound who knows how to walk through the maze of government mumbo-jumbo.

Coats also had some run-ins with the president, who you’ll remember challenged the intelligence community’s assertion that Russia hacked into our electoral system in 2016. They performed with evil intent to help Trump get elected. Trump, of course, sided with Russian strongman Vlad Putin and denigrated the intelligence network’s diligence on the matter.

Coats was at the center of that dispute.

I hate that the administration is losing a seasoned pro like DNI Dan Coats. Trump says he’ll nominate U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas — a staunch Trump supporter on Capitol Hill — to succeed Coats.

Trump called Ratcliffe a “highly respected” member of Congress, a former U.S. attorney. The president also reportedly was impressed by the way Ratcliffe grilled former special counsel Robert Mueller III during Mueller’s marathon testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees — of which Ratcliffe is a member … of both panels.

Coats, to my way of thinking, ranks alongside former Defense Secretary James Mattis as among the more stellar Trump appointments. Mattis bolted after quarreling with the president. Now it’s Coats who is leaving, reportedly for the same reasons.

Hmm. What’s the common denominator? Oh, gosh! It must be the president of the United States.

DNI Dan Coats on his way out? That, too, is a shame

Donald Trump reportedly is preparing to rid his administration of yet another seasoned political professional, someone with experience, knowledge and credibility in the job he is doing on our behalf.

That would be Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, one of the remaining adults working within the Trump administration.

I understand the president hasn’t gotten over the way Coats reacted to the surprise announcement that Trump was going to meet with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin in 2018. Coats was being interviewed by a network TV reporter when he got the news via Twitter that the president and Putin would meet.

“Isn’t that special?” Coats told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell.

Trump is seeking a DNI successor

Trump is supposedly conducting informal interviews with individuals who might succeed Coats as DNI, which I guess means that Trump has spilled the proverbial beans regarding Coats’ future.

I hate to see this happening. Dan Coats has done a credible and competent job as DNI, seeking to bring some semblance of order and discipline to the nation’s intelligence-gathering network. He has stood with other intelligence executives to declare, for instance, that the Russians indeed did attack our electoral system in 2016, a declaration that the president continues to dismiss.

The CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency, the Joint Chiefs of Staff all have said the same thing: The Russians did it! Trump’s response? He has sided with Putin, who told him he didn’t do it.

I don’t want Dan Coats to leave his post. He is a solid public servant with many years of service behind him. Donald Trump needs more — not fewer — men and women of Coats’ caliber around him.

Of course, none of that matters to the man with the self-described “big brain.”

DNI Coats might be fired for . . . telling the truth?

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats reportedly is about to be canned by the president of the United States.

Donald Trump supposedly is angry because Coats isn’t a “team player”; he doesn’t display outward “loyalty” to the president.

Good grief! DNI Coats is telling the truth. His truth-telling runs counter to the messages that the president delivers.

Trump said the Islamic State is “defeated”; Coats said ISIS is still recruiting members and is still capable of inflicting damage on targets; Trump said North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat; Coats said North Korea is continuing to develop nukes; Trump said Iran is a direct threat to the Middle East and is working toward developing a nuclear bomb; Coats said Iran is following the terms of the nuclear deal that bans the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons.

Is there a pattern here? Sure there is. Trump is lying about national security matters; Coats is telling the truth.

As we know about the president, he has barely a passing acquaintance with the truth.

Coats and Trump reportedly never have clicked. Coats is a veteran Republican politician: a former GOP member of the House and a senator from Indiana, as well as a former U.S. ambassador to Germany. He knows the ropes in Washington. He has friends and allies on both sides of the widening political chasm.

He also is prone — as they say — to speak truth to power. So he has done that. Coats’ penchant for honesty now is reportedly going to cost him his job. It also would cost the nation another grownup in a presidential administration that is sorely lacking in them.

Trump was asked this week if he is about to fire Coats. He responded that he hasn’t “even thought about it.”

Do you believe him? Neither do I.

Don’t believe what you see and hear!

Donald Trump thinks he governs a nation of rubes, boobs and goofs.

Why in the world would he tell the nation that the video it saw and the audio it heard of intelligence chiefs disputing the president’s assertions about national security threats were doctored, made up, taken out of context?

Their U.S. Senate committee testimony was “totally misquoted” he said by the media that are in the business of conveying “fake news.”

According to The Huffington Post: “Now the president contends that was not their testimony. “They said that they were totally misquoted . . . it was taken out of context. . . . They said it was fake news,” he said Thursday. He encouraged reporters to “call them.”

Huh? What the . . . ?

What in the world is this individual thinking, smoking or ingesting?

CIA Director Gina Haspel, FBI Director Christopher Wray and DNI Dan Coats all said the same thing: Donald Trump is wrong by saying ISIS is defeated, that North Korea is no longer a nuke threat and that Russia isn’t involved in attacking our electoral system.

I heard ’em say it, Mr. President. I heard ’em with my own ears and saw ’em with own eyes.

I believe our intelligence chiefs. Not you!