Dan Coats, the retiring Indiana Senator, will be Donald Trump’s Director of National Intelligence, the role currently held by James R. Clapper.
The office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was created by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Act of 2004 in response to recommendations by the 9/11 Commission Report, although the idea dates back to 1995. The goal of the office is to lead integration of the U.S. intelligence community.
As for Coats, he was first elected to Congress in 1981 to represent Indiana’s fourth Congressional district. In 1989, he was elected to his first tenure in the Senate, which lasted until 1999. He succeeded Dan Quayle in both jobs. In 2010, the 73-year-old Coats was re-elected to the Senate and served a single six-year term. He announced in 2015 that he would not run for re-election in 2016. Coats also served in the George W. Bush administration as ambassador to Germany.
Coats is married to Marsha Coats and they have three adult children and 10 grandchildren.
Here’s a look at Coats’ life and career.
1. Coats Is Reportedly the ‘Leading’ Candidate for DNI & Met With Trump in Late November
Coats visited Trump at Trump Tower in New York on November 30. He played coy about what his role might be in the Trump Administration, but Politico reported at the time that he was being considered for Director of National Intelligence. On January 4, NBC News reported that he was the “leading” contender for the job.
“I didn’t come here to be asked to be considered for anything,” Coats told reporters in November, according to a pool report. “I was invited here to just sit down and discuss a number of issues that the president would be facing and I gave him some of my years of experience in terms of what I thought they would be dealing with and made some suggestions.”
Trump has a rocky relationship with the intelligence community, which he has repeatedly questioned on the issue of Russia’s hacking to influence the 2016 election. In fact, The Wall Street Journal reported on January 4 that he was planning a “revamp” of the DNI.
Sources told CNN that the Trump transition team thinks the DNI “gets in the way” of how the other intelligence agencies work. He also wants to expand the CIA’s human spying operation, according to CNN. However, on January 5, Sean Spider told CNN that there was no truth to the Wall Street Journal’s report.
Trump has nominated Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo to be CIA director.
2. Coats Says He Has ‘Some Preferences’ for What Role He Could Have in the Trump Administration
According to the Indianapolis Star, Coats was planning on staying in Indiana after retirement. However, after Trump won the presidency, he began considering potential roles in the new administration. He even started second-guessing his decision to retire.
“When election night happened, I thought, ‘Gee, if I had known this, would I have wanted to be there to be part of it?’ And the answer was ‘yes,’” Coats told the Star. “But did I make the right decision based on the issues at the time? And the answer there was ‘yes.’ So I’m content with it, and I’m happy to turn it over to somebody who I think will carry on what I was trying to do.”
When asked about the Politico report that he is up for DNI, Coats said that was “one of the considerations,” adding, “I have some preferences and thoughts, but I really don’t want to go past that because it’s not this or nothing.”
At the time of that interview on December 8, Coats said that he would try to make a decision “within the next few days” since “things are moving on here and people want to know where I stand.”
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3. Coats’ Wife Endorsed Donald Trump for President & Thought the Office Will ‘Humble Him’
Coats stood by Donald Trump during the presidential campaign, even as other Republicans pulled their support in August 2016.
“I think you have to measure everything in terms of what is the alternative,” Coats told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette in August 2016. “People are faced with: Do you really want eight more years of what we’ve just had, and do you really want a president who we can’t trust, who has blatantly lied to us.”
“He’s a businessman. … He’s going through a learning process, and he’s made some mistakes,” Coats told the Journal Gazette of Trump.
Coats’ wife, Marsha Coats, was also a Trump supporter. She is an Indiana representative to the Republican National Committee. In her endorsement of Trump, she wrote that the presidency will change Trump and he might even turn to god for guidance.
Marsha Coats wrote of Trump:
As a conservative, pro-life, evangelical, female Republican, I understand the conflict many in our party feel about supporting Donald Trump. Trump was not my first or even my second choice. He is not a humble man, but he is the choice of Republican voters all over the country, and many Democrats too. The people have not only spoken, they have roared! We are a democracy still.
God can use imperfect people. Indeed, that is all He has to work with. I truly believe the office will change Donald Trump. I believe it will humble him. And,I think even Donald will be impelled to turn to God for guidance.
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4. Coats Helped Write the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Policy & Does Not Support Gay Marriage
Coats was one of the leading supporters of a ban on openly gay members of the military. However, he helped write the compromise policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which banned discrimination against closeted homosexuals but still banned openly gay people from serving. The ban was eventually repealed in 2010 and formally ended in 2011.
In a 2010 Indiana Daily Student interview, Coats said he was not happy with the repeal. “I think it is a reasonable means of dealing with the issue. People are not denied service, but their behavior lifestyle can’t be such that it interrupts the morale of the fighting unit,” Coats said in 2010.
Coats also said in that 2010 interview that he believes marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman. “I don’t think we have to interfere with someone who chooses an alternative lifestyle, but I just don’t think it falls under the category of marriage,” Coats said in 2010.
Coats also opposes abortion. On his Senate website, he vowed to “defend the sanctity of life from the moment of conception,” adding, “I will also continue to oppose the use of taxpayer funding for abortions, the promotion of human cloning or government funding of embryo-destroying stem cell research.”
4. Coats Delivered Weekly Waste of the Week Speeches in Congress to Highlight Wasteful Government Spending
During his second tenure in Congress, Coats tried to focus on fiscal issues and sat on the Finance and Joint Economic Committees. He was also on the Select Intelligence Committee. In 2015, he started giving “Waste of the Week” speeches to highlight government spending he thought was wasteful.
In a January 2016 interview with Roll Call, Coats said the speeches were inspired by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who released an annual “Wastebook.”
“It’s not just exposing it to people, but the next step is to force Congress to take action to prevent this from happening,” Coats told Roll Call.
In his December interview with The Star, Coats revealed that his last “Waste of the Week” speech was on Medicaid coverage for hair replacement.
“I’m the perfect person to say, ‘This is a fact of life,’” Coats told the Star, referring to the fact that he’s going bald. “Do we really need to spend taxpayer money on people who are losing their hair?”
5. After Serving as Ambassador to Germany, Coats Shepherded George W. Bush’s Supreme Court Nominations of Harriet Miers & Samuel Alito
After leaving the Senate for the first time, Coats stayed active in politics, working in the George W. Bush administration. From 2001 to 2005, he was the ambassador to Germany.
After that, he helped shepherd Bush’s Supreme Court nominations of Harriet Miers and Samuel Alito. Miers’ nomination failed, in part because of bipartisan opposition and her lack of experience. It was up to Coats to defend her.
“She’s a gracious lady with a distinguished record,” Coats told CNN in 2005. “Has risen to the top of every organization that she’s been a part of, including counsel to the president. And a woman who will faithfully carry out the president’s often stated desires and determination to have someone on the court, appoint someone to the court who will faithfully and strictly interpret the Constitution, not try to make laws.”
“A lot of people saw Harriet Miers as someone who would be voting the right way, but not adding the intellectual heft and argument that would stand the test of time,” Coats said in retrospect in 2014, reports NWTimes.com.
Alito was then nominated to the Supreme Court after Bush withdrew Miers’ nomination. Coats also helped Alito meet with senators and, since Alito had experience as a federal judge, it was much easier for him to be confirmed.
“I have not had the privilege of meeting a more brilliant jurist than Samuel Alito,” Coats said in 2014, reports NWTimes.com. “His depth of character as well as his adherence to the Constitution and his demeanor, and the way in which he analyzed and came to his judicial decisions, was stunning.”