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Trump picks Dan Coats for intelligence director

US President-elect Donald Trump has announced retired Sen. Dan Coats as his choice for director of national intelligence. The former ambassador to Germany was a harsh critic of Russia after the annexation of Crimea.

Trump said in a statement Saturday that former Indiana Senator Dan Coats would lead the new administration's "ceaseless vigilance against those who seek to do us harm."

If confirmed by the Senate, Coats would replace James Clapper as the top US intelligence official, overseeing 17 agencies, including the CIA and NSA.

The 73-year-old welcomed his nomination. "There is no higher priority than keeping America safe, and I will utilize every tool at my disposal to make that happen," he said in a statement.

Trump has publicly questioned the role of the director of national intelligence - a post created after the September 11, 2001 attacks - and US media this week reported that his team was seeking to restructure the office.

Four years in Berlin

Under former President George W. Bush, Coats served as US ambassador to Germany. He took up the post before the September 11 attacks. Germany's chancellor at the time, Gerhard Schröder, promised the US government "unrestricted solidarity."

Berlin offered assistance to the US in the anti-terrorist struggle and participated in the Afghanistan deployment. But Germany's objection to Bush's plans to invade Iraq led to a serious rift between the allies.

Upon leaving Berlin in 2005, Coats said there had been a "dramatic improvement" in bilateral relations.

Counterweight to Russia

Trump's announcement came one day after the release of a US intelligence report asserting Russian efforts to influence the outcome of the US presidential election. Trump has dismissed previous intelligence agencies' assessments that the Kremlin interfered in the November vote, and has repeatedly called for stronger ties with Russia.

Coats, for his part, was a vocal critic of Russia during the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Soon after the White House imposed sanctions on Moscow, the Kremlin responded by banning several lawmakers, including Coats, from traveling to Russia. The former senator, who had advocated tough punishment for Moscow, called the ban an honor.

nm/se (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

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