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.
But the tipping point for Coats came in December with Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria, and the contentious departure of former Defense Secretary James Mattis after protesting the policy, according to the current and former officials. The vice president, who has repeatedly played the role of envoy between Trump and Coats, convinced his longtime Indiana friend to stay until at least this summer, the officials said.
Similarly, whenever Trump is souring on the DNI he privately calls “Mister Rogers” — because he won’t implement a directive or has left the impression he thinks the president is irrational — Pence has encouraged Trump to stick with Coats, according to the current and former officials.