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Trump Picks Ex-Senator, Banned From Russia, As His Intelligence Chief

Former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats is reportedly President-elect Donald Trump's choice as director of national intelligence.
Alex Brandon
Former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats is reportedly President-elect Donald Trump's choice as director of national intelligence.

President-elect Donald Trump has selected former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats to be director of national intelligence, according to a statement from President-elect Donald Trump's transition team.

In choosing Coats, he is getting a veteran Washington establishment figure — a senator, former lobbyist and ambassador to Germany — with a rare distinction: being banned from Russia.

Coats' views on Russia after its annexation of Crimea, and his calls for stronger sanctions as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, landed him and other senators on Russia's banned list.

It's a major difference with the president-elect, who has praised Putin and cast doubt on U.S. intelligence conclusions that the Russian government, sought to help President-elect Donald Trump's election chances.

Coats even mocked Russia with a David Letterman-style top 10 list on Twitter in 2014:

Coats' Background

Coats served as senator from 1989 to 1999 and again from 2011 to this year. (He did not seek re-election in November.)

In between Senate stints, Coats served as U.S. ambassador to Germany during the George W. Bush administration and worked as a lobbyist. He was also asked by Bush to help his unsuccessful attempt to win Senate confirmation of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

Coats has been an outspoken critic of the Russian leader.

As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Coats wrote President Obama after Russia annexed Crimea in 2013, urging Obama to impose sanctions against a Russian weapons exporter.

The senators argued the sanctions "would send a powerful message to Putin," whose foreign policy, they went on, has become "increasingly belligerent."

Coats also sponsored an amendment to a Ukrainian aid bill in the Senate that would prohibit the U.S. government from doing any business with the exporter, a company called Rosoboronexport.

Such actions, Coats said, "would require our foreign partners to make a choice between America and Putin."

In 2014, Coats also called on organizers of soccer's World Cup to move the tournament, scheduled for Russia in 2018, somewhere else.

All of which won Coats the honor of being banned from Russia, along with five other lawmakers, including Armed Services Chairman and 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, and three Obama administration staff members.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.