You know that work friend you have who you can vent to about the angering interactions with your boss, especially when you’re close to losing it and quitting altogether, but who also happens to be the assistant manager and keeps telling you that he’ll talk to the guy for you and that you should just ride it out until things get better?
Vice President Mike Pence is definitely that shitty friend, and he has been to multiple people within the Trump administration. He’s particularly aligned himself, however, with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, a former Republican congressman and senator from Pence’s home state of Indiana. And reportedly, Pence has begged Coats to stay on no matter how many reasons their own boss, President Donald Trump, gives Coats not to.
According to a report from NBC News, Pence convinced Coats to stay in the Trump administration until at least the summer after Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, current and former officials told the outlet. Coats reportedly sided with Defense Secretary James Mattis on the policy, according to NBC News, but didn’t know what to do after Mattis’ resignation. Pence then convinced Coats to stay on for longer, arguing that another top national security official’s resignation following Mattis’ would look very bad for the president.
Pence has reportedly smoothed many patches between Trump and Coats, often “encouraging [Coats] to continue the work he’s doing and reiterating that he has the support of the White House,” while encouraging Trump to keep Coats on. Here’s just a small summary of the conflicts between the president and the DNI, from NBC News:
Among the tensions the officials said have marred the relationship between the president and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats: Trump pushed Coats to find evidence that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him; he demanded Coats publicly criticize the U.S. intelligence community as biased; and he accused Coats of being behind leaks of classified information. More recently Trump also fumed to aides after Coats publicly defended the importance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in countering Russia’s aggression, officials said.
It’s not exactly a secret that Trump and Coats’ relationship is strained. Last July, Coats found out during an interview with Lesley Stahl that Trump had invited Russian president Vladimir Putin to the White House, an invitation that was since canceled and then extended again. Coats was taken aback by the news, to say the least.
So it’s no wonder why Coats cannot stand the president. Coats was reportedly especially irked by Trump’s conspiracy about Obama wiretapping him, which has continued over the past two years. From NBC News (emphasis mine):
Coats found it particularly hard to hide his exasperation with Trump’s insistence in the weeks after taking office that Obama had wiretapped him during the 2016 campaign, according to the officials. Over and over again Trump raised the issue, and over and over Coats told him he wasn’t wiretapped, officials said, but the president didn’t want to hear it.
“It was a recurring thing and began early on,” a senior administration official who observed the exchanges said. “You could tell that Coats thought the president was crazy.”
In addition to Coats, Obama administration officials, including former DNI James Clapper, have denied Trump’s surveillance claim.
Yet even now the president still appears unconvinced. Earlier this month he wrote on Twitter, citing Fox News commentary: “New evidence that the Obama era team of the FBI, DOJ & CIA were working together to Spy on (and take out) President Trump, all the way back to 2015.”
Officials say that things between Trump and Coats are OK for now, but that despite Coats’s summer deadline finessed by Pence, his remaining time in the Trump administration hasn’t been decided, and that Trump could end up bumping up his departure. But until then, it appears Pence has made it his mission to keep his fellow Indianan in the administration for as long as possible. What a great friend.