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Trump selects former Sen. Coats for top intelligence post

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President-elect Donald Trump has selected former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats to lead the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, a role that would thrust him into the center of the intelligence community that Trump has publicly challenged, a person with knowledge of the decision said Thursday.

Coats served as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee before retiring from Congress last year. If confirmed by the Senate, he would oversee the umbrella office created after 9/11 to improve coordination of U.S. spy and law enforcement agencies.

The person with knowledge of Trump's decision, as well as others who spoke to The Associated Press about intelligence matters involving Trump, were not authorized to discuss the matters publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Since winning the election, Trump has repeatedly challenged intelligence officials' assessments that Russia interfered with the election on his behalf, setting up an unusually public battle with the spy agencies. On Friday, senior intelligence officials will try to justify their claims when they brief Trump on the findings of a full report into the Russian hacking of Democratic groups. The report was ordered by President Barack Obama, who was informed of the conclusions Thursday.

On the eve of his briefing, Trump continued to challenge the intelligence community's assertion that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. He questioned how officials could be "so sure" about the hacking if they had not examined DNC servers.

"What is going on?" he wrote on Twitter.

A senior law enforcement official said in a statement released by the FBI that the bureau repeatedly stressed to DNC officials the importance of obtaining direct access to the servers "only to be rebuffed until well after the initial compromise had been mitigated." The official said the FBI had to rely on a "third party" for information, but did get access to the material it needed.

Against that backdrop, Trump's transition team has been considering ways to restructure intelligence agencies — part of an effort to streamline operations and improve efficiency, not as retribution. Transition officials have been looking at changes at both ODNI and the CIA, according to a person familiar with the discussions. The person said they reflect the views of intelligence officials who have told Trump's team that there is room for streamlining within the multi-agency intelligence community.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Wednesday night that Trump was considering the changes. Trump transition spokesman Sean Spicer said the report was "100 percent false" and said transition activities were "for information-gathering purposes."

The scope of the changes discussed by some in Trump's transition team was unclear. But the prospect of a sweeping overhaul still created blowback, contributing to former CIA Director James Woolsey's decision to step aside as a senior adviser to the president-elect.

A person with direct knowledge of Woolsey's decision said the former CIA chief had not been significantly involved in the Trump team's discussions on intelligence matters and became uncomfortable being labeled as an adviser. In an interview on CNN, Woolsey said he did not want to "fly under false colors."

In other recent television appearances, Woolsey — who was CIA director under President Bill Clinton — said he believed Russia was involved in the election-related hackings, though he also said others may have been as well.

The CIA declined to comment on potential changes to the intelligence community. Outgoing National Intelligence Director James Clapper told a Senate panel Thursday that his office has not been engaged in such discussions with the Trump transition team. He noted that lawmakers created his office.

"Congress, I think, gets a vote here," said Clapper, who was testifying on Russia's election interference.

Coats' nomination is likely to soothe those who fear Trump will significantly overhaul the intelligence community. The 73-year-old is a Capitol Hill veteran who served eight years in the House before moving to the Senate in 1989 to take Dan Quayle's place when he became vice president. He stayed in the Senate until 1998, then left to become a lobbyist.

After a stint as ambassador to Germany under President George W. Bush, Coats joined the high-powered Washington firm of King & Spalding. He helped lead the company's government affairs division and lobbied for pharmaceutical, defense and energy companies.

Coats, who earned $600,000 in his final 13 months at King & Spalding, downplayed his lobbying work when he returned to Indiana for a successful Senate comeback bid in 2010. He served one term and did not seek re-election last year.

Coats was a harsh critic of Russia and pushed the Obama administration to harshly punish Moscow for its annexation of Crimea in 2014. When the White House levied sanctions, the Kremlin responded by banning several lawmakers, including Coats, from traveling to Russia.

Trump has called for improving the relationship between the U.S. and Russia, and has also spoken favorably about Russian President Vladimir Putin. His refusal thus far to accept the intelligence community's assessment that Russia was meddling in the 2016 election has sparked concern among lawmakers in both parties.

Intelligence agencies have concluded that there is no question that Russia was behind hacking of political computer systems — something they say could only have occurred with the approval of top Kremlin officials. That conclusion is detailed in the classified report Obama ordered up on Russia and other foreign influence in U.S. elections dating back to 2008.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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