In the week since Donald Trump ousted his Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, it’s been abundantly clear that he didn’t want Coats’ Deputy, Sue Gordon, to assume the role – even on an acting basis. But as the Senate Republicans torpedoed Trump’s attempted nomination of John Ratcliffe to the position, and then publicly told Trump that he was legally required to name Gordon the Acting DNI, Trump seemed to be changing his tune – until yesterday.
That’s when Donald Trump suddenly announced on Twitter that Sue Gordon was instead retiring, effective next week, and that he was naming retired Admiral Joseph Maguire as Acting DNI. At the time, it appeared that Trump had found a way to oust Gordon, so the GOP Senate couldn’t force him to let her have the job. But now CNN is reporting that the whole thing actually went very differently.
Multiple sources are now telling CNN that Dan Coats interrupted a meeting in order to urge Sue Gordon not to take the Acting DNI job, and that Gordon – who by all accounts is loyal to Coats – ended up honoring his wishes. But why would Coats do this?
It’s been clear for some time now that Dan Coats, who was trying to oversee the U.S. intel community in good faith, had zero influence over anything that Donald Trump and his cronies were doing when it came to the intel community. If anything, having the respected Coats on the job was merely cover for Trump to do anything he wanted. So it’s not difficult to imagine that Coats didn’t want Trump to have the continued cover of having the respected Gordon in the position.
We’re seeing widespread reports that Republicans in the Senate are truly spun around now that Dan Coats and Sue Gordon are both out. This may in fact be the whole point. For whatever reason, ever since Coats’ departure was announced, the GOP Senate has demonstrated extreme fear that the whole DNI thing could blow up in its face if it became a debacle. Now it is a debacle, meaning Trump’s safety net in the GOP Senate is a lot more shaky.
Most Republicans in Congress want to give Donald Trump whatever he wants and keep him happy – but only to the extent that they don’t take the blame for his scandals and debacles when they’re up for reelection. With several House Republicans having abruptly announced that they’re not seeking reelection, ostensibly because they don’t think they can win while sharing a ballot with the toxically unpopular Trump, and several Senate Republicans publicly frazzled over the DNI situation, Coats and Gordon have managed to severely undercut Trump’s support within the GOP at a crucial time. That may be the point.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report