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

President TrumpDonald John TrumpNASA exec leading moon mission quits weeks after appointment The Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' MORE said Wednesday that he hadn’t considered replacing Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsHillicon Valley: Facebook co-founder calls for breaking up company | Facebook pushes back | Experts study 2020 candidates to offset 'deepfake' threat | FCC votes to block China Mobile | Groups, lawmakers accuse Amazon of violating children's privacy Experts are studying mannerisms of 2020 candidates to help offset threat of 'deepfake' videos Bolton held unexpected meeting on Iran with top intel, military advisers at CIA: report 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.