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Trump to nominate former Sen. Coats as intelligence chief

AP file photo

Then-Indiana Sen. Dan Coats on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 17

Reuters WASHINGTON (Reuters) — President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday picked former U.S. Senator Dan Coats as his director of national intelligence, two senior transition officials said, as he puts his stamp on a U.S. intelligence community that he frequently criticizes.

The official announcement was expected this week as Trump makes decisions on some of the remaining major positions he must fill as he prepares to take over the White House on Jan. 20.

Coats, 73, is a traditional conservative from Indiana who just finished a six-year term in the U.S. Senate. He was also U.S. Ambassador to Germany for Republican President George W. Bush.

Coats “would be an excellent choice,” Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, told reporters.

“Because Dan’s got the experience, he’s got the leadership skills having been an ambassador and I think his time on the committee has served him to understand what that role entails.”

One Democratic official familiar with Coats’ background and views described him as a “very reasonable guy.” Another U.S. official familiar with intelligence matters said he was “very well respected on both sides of the aisle.”

A source close to the transition said Trump had also considered New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for the job but that Christie had chosen not to take it.

Trump has repeatedly expressed doubts about the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia had a hand in hacking during the presidential campaign.

The Democratic official said Coats knew a lot about Europe and Russia and might “butt heads with Trump over Russia.”

The president-elect was to get a briefing about the intelligence community’s findings on the topic from senior U.S. officials on Friday at Trump Tower in New York.

Some U.S. intelligence officials on Thursday welcomed Coats’ selection, saying they hoped his appointment was a sign that Trump was seeking to mend fences with the intelligence community after months of enmity over its assessment that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election through hacking.

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