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Senate Committee Approves Intelligence Nominee Coats


FILE - Dan Coats testifies before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee on his nomination to be the next director of national intelligence in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Feb. 28, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Senate intelligence committee voted overwhelmingly Thursday in favor of President Donald Trump's nominee to be director of national intelligence, former Republican Senator Dan Coats of Indiana, sending his nomination to the Senate floor.

The vote, which took place in a closed hearing, was 13-2, the committee said. Democratic Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and and Kamala Harris of California were the only two members to vote no.

Coats must still be confirmed by the full Senate to become the top U.S. intelligence official. The popular former lawmaker, who also served as ambassador to Germany, is expected to be confirmed easily.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence was created after the September 11, 2001, attacks to oversee all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies and improve communications among them.

Coats, 73, would replace James Clapper, who retired as President Barack Obama left office.

Russia probe

Coats was a member of the Senate intelligence panel until he retired from the Senate at the end of last year. He pledged during his confirmation hearing on February 28 to support a thorough investigation of any Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Wyden, one of the Senate's leading privacy advocates, said he voted against his former colleague because he felt that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence had not provided the committee with enough information about how many Americans' communication records had been subjected to government surveillance.

"Given that there has not been a firm commitment to deliver this critical information, I cannot support any DNI nominee without that material," Wyden said in a statement.

Harris said that after consideration of Coats' record on a range of issues, she concluded she could not support his nomination.

Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, the committee's Republican chairman, and Mark Warner of Virginia, its top Democrat, both said they were pleased the committee had backed Coats.

Warner said he was confident that Coats, as a former committee member, had respect for the panel's oversight responsibilities.

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