WASHINGTON – The Senate backed key players of President Donald Trump's national security team on Wednesday, confirming his pick for intelligence director and clearing the way for an active-duty Army general to serve as his national security adviser.
Senators voted 85-12 to approve the nomination of former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats as director of national intelligence, making him the fifth person to hold the post created after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Minutes later they voted 86-10 to re-appoint H.R. McMaster as a three-star general "to a position of importance and responsibility." National security advisers aren't subject to Senate confirmation. But McMaster elected to remain in uniform rather than retire from military service, and generals need the chamber's approval when they're promoted or change assignments.
Trump selected McMaster to lead the National Security Council as controversy swirled over communications that members of Trump's campaign team had with Russian officials. McMaster's predecessor, Michael Flynn, was asked to resign after misleading senior administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, about the nature of his contacts during the transition period with Russia's ambassador to the United States.
One of McMaster's staunchest supporters, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, said before the vote that McMaster is "experienced, talented, and he knows what it's like to be in combat with the enemy."
As the Trump administration's top intelligence official, Coats will oversee 16 intelligence agencies that have, at times, been criticized by Trump, who has disparaged them for past failures and their assessment that the Kremlin interfered in the election in the president's favor.
Coats also will be a key player in the government's ongoing investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.
He faced a friendly confirmation hearing last month in front of his former Senate colleagues. He was pressed on whether he would stand up to political pressure from the Trump White House and assured lawmakers he would provide accurate and timely intelligence.
Coats, 73, has swung back and forth between government service and lobbying, the type of Washington career that Trump has mocked. Since the early 1980s, Coats either has served in government or earned money as a lobbyist and board director. His most recently available Senate financial disclosure, from 2014, shows he had a net worth of more than $12 million.
Associated Press writer Eileen Sullivan contributed to this report.
Contact Richard Lardner on Twitter: http://twitter.com/rplardner