Trump's top intel chief plans on stepping down

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Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testifies to the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about "worldwide threats" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 29, 2019.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testifies to the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about "worldwide threats" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 29, 2019.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Dan Coats, the spy chief who has clashed with U.S. President Donald Trump over assessments involving Russia, Iran and North Korea, plans to step down soon, a source familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

A person with direct knowledge of that matter told Reuters that Coats advised Trump last week that he planned to step down fairly soon as director of national intelligence. He offered the president some thoughts on who might succeed him, the source said.

The New York Times, citing people familiar with the matter, reported the departure was expected "in the coming days."

Coats' office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump is seriously considering tapping U.S. Representative John Ratcliffe, a fellow Republican, to replace
Coats, a source told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Representatives for Ratcliffe were not immediately available for comment.

Ratcliffe, a member of the House of Representatives intelligence and judiciary committees, strongly defended Trump on Wednesday during former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's testimony on his two-year investigation of Russian election activities.

His prospects for Senate confirmation to the top intelligence post were not clear.

Coats, a Trump appointee who served as director of national intelligence since March 2017, clashed with his boss early on, taking a hard line toward Russia that sharply contrasted with the conciliatory approach Trump pursued toward Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In January, Coats told Congress that North Korea was unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons, contradicting Trump's statement that Pyongyang no longer poses a threat. He also told lawmakers that Iran had continued to comply with a nuclear deal that Trump abandoned.

The next day, Trump on Twitter complained about the "passive and naive" U.S. intelligence leaders, suggesting they "go back to school!"