President Trump became increasingly disenchanted with Daniel Coats, director of national intelligence, who has been America's top intelligence chief for nearly two years. Some officials of the administration fear to return soon, according to people close to the file.
The president has never seen Coats as a close or trusted adviser, they said, but he has become even more frustrated in recent weeks as a result of public statements that, according to Trump, would compromise his political goals, particularly with regard to the conclusion of a disarmament agreement with the North. Korea.
The people familiar with the case, who, like the other people interviewed for this report, spoke under the guise of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, did not believe that Coats would be fired immediately, but said that Trump was considering sending him back. They also noted that Trump sometimes gets angry with officials but does not reject them.
Trump is still "enraged" by the testimony of the parliamentary committee on threats to national security last month, saying that the director had undermined the authority of the president when he had shared intelligence assessments on the issue. 39, Iran, North Korea and the Islamic State that were at odds with many of Trump's public statements, said a councilor who spoke with the president over the weekend.
Trump seemed to have left the episode behind him and claimed shortly after the hearing that Gina Haspel, director of the CIA, had told him that they had been "badly quoted" in their comments during of the television audience.
But in private, the president continued to burn. This weekend, he told the advisor that Mr. Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana, was "not loyal" and "that he was not part of the team. ".
A White House official said separately that Trump had recently complained about Coats' public statements, which he said had undermined him. Another White House official said the president 's frustration with Coats was real, but did not think he would be fired anytime soon.
At the intelligence chief's headquarters in northern Virginia, there was no indication that Coats' separation would be imminent, said a former senior intelligence official who spoke with people on Tuesday morning.
"This relationship has been tense for a long time," said the former manager. "Most people do not think it will happen tomorrow. But yes, they think it's only a matter of time. "
Trump asked his confidants to suggest who could replace Coats, according to the advisor.
In expressing his anger at Coats, the president followed a familiar pattern that preceded his dismissal from cabinet officials. Trump often speaks of disloyalty, knowing that his interlocutors will speak with journalists, warning the offending official that his days are numbered.
A spokesman for Coats declined to comment.
Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee were upset by the prospect of Coats' dismissal.
"Dan Coats is an exemplary public servant," said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), a committee member who had attended the Threat Hearing last month. "When a president – whichever president – denigrates or ignores the factual information presented by the intelligence community. . . he sends a message to the intelligence community: "Do not tell me things I do not want to hear."
At the beginning of the Trump administration, Coats forged close ties with Mike Pompeo, then director of the CIA, who became one of the most trusted foreign policy advisers as secretary of the CIA. State. Pompeo is now in charge of the fight against Iran, a major objective of the administration, and negotiations on nuclear disarmament with North Korea.
When Coats attended Trump's intelligence briefings on a daily basis, he was sometimes unable to catch the President's attention and prevent him from tacking backwards, the former official said.
As Pompeo's star rose, the president also began to admire Haspel, who became director of the CIA last May, according to US officials.
This left Coats as a strange man. He is not a particularly experienced manager and has entrusted the day-to-day management of the director's office to his main deputy, Sue Gordon, a career intelligence officer with nearly 30 years of experience, current and former officials said.
"He is not involved in anything, but he is not a hard-working manager," said a former senior intelligence officer who has known Coats for years and keeps in touch with current leaders.
The position of intelligence director is considered one of the most ungrateful in the intelligence community. But it has already been occupied by people with a long career running espionage agencies or military commands.
Coats had served on the Senate Intelligence Committee and was an ambassador to Germany following the September 11, 2001 attacks, which helped German and US intelligence agencies strengthen their working relationship.
But he was more perceived as an interim caretaker, not like someone planning to implement a bold program.
"It's true that many people felt that Coats was going to do this for a while, then he was going to do what he was about to do when he took office: to retire and move time with grandchildren "A former manager who spoke to people at Coats' office said.
But if he wanted to keep his head down, Coats also found himself face to face with the president, dramatically and perhaps involuntarily.
Last July, Coats was interviewed on the scene at the Aspen Security Annual Forum when the White House announced via tweet that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been invited to Washington.
Coats was clearly taken by surprise and made little effort to hide his dissatisfaction.
"Okaaaay," says Coats. "It's going to be special." The audience burst out laughing.
In the same interview given to NBC News' Andrea Mitchell, Coats also said that no one had asked him if it was a good idea that Trump met in private with Putin at a summit in Helsinki. Trump has not authorized any Cabinet member or assistant to attend the meeting. Several officials said they could not get a reliable account of the conversation between the two leaders, which only two interpreters attended, the Washington Post reported.
Coats said he was not informed about what had happened at the meeting. If asked, he would have advised the president not to talk face-to-face with Putin and US security officials to worry about the fact that there was no note taken.
When asked if it was possible for Putin to secretly record the meeting for more than two hours, Coats replied, "This risk is still present."
Trump was livid and thought Coats was trying to embarrass him in a room full of senior and former national security officials, many of whom were fiercely critical of the president, a senior US official said.
Two days later, Coats publicly apologized for what he called a "clumsy answer" to the news of Putin's invitation.