Committee vote delayed on national intelligence director nominee

Committee vote delayed on national intelligence director nominee
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The Senate Intelligence Committee postponed an expected vote on President Trump’s pick to head the nation’s national intelligence apparatus from Tuesday to Thursday, according to an aide to Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrLawmakers grapple with warrantless wiretapping program Facebook under fire over Russian ads in election 5 senators call for US to shutter embassy in Havana MORE (R-N.C.).

The delay was a question of paperwork — lawmakers had more written questions that expected, necessitating further time for both former Sen. Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsOvernight Cybersecurity: DHS bans agencies from using Kaspersky software | Panel calls Equifax CEO to testify | Facebook pulling ads from fake news Mueller investigation focusing on social media's role in 2016 election: report Intelligence director criticizes former officials for speaking out against Trump MORE (R-Ind.) to reply and for lawmakers to review the responses.

Coats, a former member of the panel, is well-liked by his colleagues and is expected to sail through to a final confirmation vote.

In a genial confirmation hearing late last month, the only major concern committee members repeatedly raised was that Coats might be too nice for the job of director of national intelligence (DNI).

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But the vote comes at a moment of intense scrutiny of the Trump administration’s handling of national security, while the intelligence community and multiple lawmakers express concern that Coats will be hamstrung by a limited role in Trump’s national security apparatus.

In an executive memorandum last month, Trump reshuffled the Principal’s Committee of the National Security Council, elevating his controversial political adviser, Stephen Bannon, and apparently de-emphasizing the role of the DNI. Under that order, Coats will only attend meetings when issues pertinent to his responsibilities are discussed.

“I have been reassured time and time and time again by the president and his advisers that I am welcome and needed and expected to be part of the Principal’s Committee,” Coats said during his hearing.

He told lawmakers the administration told him that demoting the DNI was never the “intent” of the order, the language of which they had merely copied from a similar George W. Bush-era memorandum.

Coats also sought to reassure lawmakers that he would speak truth to power if confirmed, amid ongoing concerns about politicization of intelligence within the administration. He further vowed to work with the committee in its investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election.

“In this new role, it will be my responsibility to present the president, senior policymakers and the Congress with the best and most objective, nonpolitical and timely intelligence,” Coats said during his opening statement, placing the emphasis on the word “nonpolitical.”

“The president and I have discussed my potential role as his principal intelligence adviser, and we both recognize that this position is frequently the bearer of unpleasant news.”

A former ambassador to Germany under Bush, Coats served in the Senate twice — from 1989 to 1999, and again from 2011 until last year.

Coats will have to be approved by the full Senate after the committee vote.