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US spy chief to resign, Trump taps John Ratcliffe

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testifies on worldwide threats during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing February 13, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)

The US' National Intelligence director Dan Coats is expected to step down amid chronic differences with Donald Trump over such issues as Iran and Russia, with the president nominating a congressman, who recently defended the commander-in-chief during the highly-publicized Mueller testimony.

Tweeting on Sunday, Trump said the organization’s current head Dan Coats would step down on August 15, adding that he would nominate Texan Republican John Ratcliffe for the position.

Picture taken on July 24, 2019 shows US Representative John Ratcliffe, Republican of Texas, listening as former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)

Ratcliffe has not served in posts centering on intelligence apart from doing a six-month-long stint on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as well as the committee’s counterpart in the US Senate.

He, however, strongly defended the president during a congressional testimony on Wednesday by former special counsel Robert Mueller, who has investigated allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections which led to Trump's victory.

As Mueller was emphasizing that he had not exonerated Trump of obstruction of justice in the case, Ratcliffe accused him of overstepping his mandate while conducting his investigation.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, criticized Trump’s choice, saying, “It’s clear that Rep. Ratcliffe was selected because he exhibited blind loyalty to President Trump with his demagogic questioning of ... Mueller.”

“If Senate Republicans elevate such a partisan player to a position that requires intelligence expertise and non-partisanship, it would be a big mistake,” Schumer added in a statement.

Trump tweeted, though, “John will lead and inspire greatness for the Country he loves.”

Coats’ clashes with Trump saw him telling Congress on one occasion that Iran had continued to comply with a 2015 nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and other countries that Trump left last year. The next day, Trump complained on Twitter about “passive and naive” US intelligence leaders, suggesting they “go back to school!”

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