WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday picked former U.S. Senator Dan Coats as his director of national intelligence, two senior transition officials said, as he puts his own stamp on a U.S. intelligence community that he frequently criticizes.
The official announcement was expected this week as Trump makes decisions on some of the remaining major positions he must fill as he prepares to take over the White House on Jan. 20.
Coats, 73, is a traditional conservative from Indiana who just finished a six-year term in the U.S. Senate. He was also a U.S. ambassador to Germany for Republican President George W. Bush.
Two senior transition officials said Trump had chosen Coats. Separately, a source close to the transition said Trump had also considered New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for the job but that Christie had chosen not to take it.
Trump was also nearing decisions on two other Cabinet positions, agriculture secretary and secretary of veterans affairs, with announcements expected soon, the source close to the transition said.
The leading candidate to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture was former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, although one source said Idaho Governor Butch Otter was also in the mix.
As for the veterans position, Trump on Tuesday met with Leo Mackay Jr., a former deputy secretary for veterans affairs and a senior vice president of Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N), about the Cabinet post.
Toby Cosgrove, chief executive officer of the Cleveland Clinic, had been considered for the veterans job but withdrew from consideration.
Trump has repeatedly expressed doubts about the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia had a hand in hacking during the presidential campaign.
He was to get a briefing about the intelligence community’s findings on the topic from senior U.S. officials on Friday at Trump Tower in New York.
Some U.S. Intelligence officials on Thursday welcomed Coats’ selection, saying they hope his appointment was a sign that Trump was seeking to mend fences with the intelligence community after months of enmity over its assessment that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election through hacking.
One official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a domestic political issue, said he also hoped that if he is confirmed, Coats can negotiate what he called “a truce” between the intelligence community and Trump’s choice for national security adviser, the former Defense Intelligence Agency director, retired Army Lieutenant General Mike Flynn, who was fired by the current director of national intelligence, James Clapper.
Additional reporting by John Walcott; Editing by Peter Cooney and Jonathan Oatis