Trump says he hasn't considered replacing Coats as his top intel official

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'Haven't thought about' pardons for Mueller target Pence: Rocket attack 'proves that Hamas is not a partner for peace' Conservation remains a core conservative principle MORE said Wednesday that he hadn’t considered replacing Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsOvernight Defense: Pentagon lists construction projects at risk from emergency declaration | Officials deny report on leaving 1,000 troops in Syria | Spy budget request nears B Trump administration requests nearly B for spy budget Dems request probe into spa owner suspected of trying to sell access to Trump MORE as his top intelligence chief after a longtime confidant raised the prospect Coats could be fired.

"I haven’t even thought about it,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked whether he had considered replacing Coats. His remarks came ahead of a meeting with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. 


Speculation has percolated since Monday that the director of national intelligence could be ousted, after Trump friend Christopher Ruddy told CNN that there is “general disappointment” with Coats in the White House. Ruddy specifically pointed to public Capitol Hill testimony Coats delivered in January in which he said North Korea was “unlikely” to completely relinquish its nuclear weapons. 

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Trump viewed Coats’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee as undercutting his foreign policy efforts and has grown increasingly frustrated with Coats in recent weeks as a result. 

Trump’s remarks Wednesday, however, appear to throw cold water on the prospect of Coats’s ouster, at least for the time being. 

Coats and other top national security officials made headlines for their public testimony in January, particularly because their statements seemed to conflict with Trump’s foreign policy agenda.

The threat assessment released on the same day found that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons, that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria still remained a significant threat in Syria and that North Korea is unlikely to completely denuclearize.

Trump initially lashed out following the testimony, writing on Twitter that intelligence officials should "go back to school." He later claimed that Coats and CIA Director Gina Haspel told him that the media mischaracterized their testimony and said they were "very much in agreement." 

Ruddy, who had dinner with Trump in Palm Beach, Fla., over the weekend, told CNN that Coats was trying to “make policy and not inform policy” with his remarks on the threat from North Korea, which came amid ongoing talks between the Trump administration and Pyongyang on denuclearization. 

“The purpose of intelligence is to give the president the facts, let him decide and make the decisions — not to publicly declare that his policies are going to fail a week before he goes over to North Korea on this very important summit,” Ruddy said.

“I’m hearing from sources around the White House that there’s just general disappointment of the president with Director Coats,” Ruddy added. “There’s a feeling that maybe there needs to be a change of leadership in that position coming up.”

A former Trump administration official subsequently told The Hill that there is a “growing sense in the administration that Coats’s days are numbered.”

Coats's tenure was previously called into question following Trump's one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin last July. Trump was reportedly furious over the director’s reaction to a second proposed meeting between Trump and Putin in Washington. 

“OK. That’s going to be special,” Coats told Andrea Mitchell of NBC News when she broke the news to him of the proposed meeting.

Later, Coats publicly apologized for his “awkward” reaction, saying the press had “mischaracterized” his response and that it was not meant to “be disrespectful or criticize” Trump.

Brett Samuels and Jacqueline Thomsen contributed.