When Mr. Trump posted tweets Sunday announcing that Mr. Coats would step down on Aug. 15 and that he intended to nominate Mr. Ratcliffe, the president hinted that Ms. Gordon might not automatically become the acting director in the interim, saying an acting director would be named soon.
Those tweets prompted concern on Capitol Hill that Mr. Trump would circumvent Ms. Gordon. The next day, Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, expressly referred to the fact that he looked forward to working with Ms. Gordon, calling her “a trusted partner.”
On Thursday, Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, who is the committee’s vice chairman, said the law was “pretty clear” that the acting role goes to the deputy when the director of national intelligence leaves. “This is something that’s very bipartisan,” Mr. Warner said. “Every member of the intelligence committee has enormous respect for Sue Gordon.”
Ms. Gordon’s experience is not necessarily a point in her favor for the White House, where Mr. Trump and his allies view the permanent bureaucracy of national security professionals with suspicion as a so-called deep state that may be out to get him.
Mr. Trump and House Republicans have made clear that they believe a broad reorganization of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is needed. Administration officials and House Republicans also have said they would like someone at the agency who will work well with Attorney General William P. Barr, who has ordered a review of the intelligence agencies’ support for the F.B.I. as the bureau sought to understand Moscow’s covert efforts to tilt the 2016 election, including any links to the Trump campaign.
There appears little chance that the Senate, which is currently gone for its summer recess, will swiftly confirm Mr. Ratcliffe, in light of the bipartisan skepticism about his qualifications and questions about the honesty of his résumé.
The White House has bypassed the legally prescribed usual order of succession to appoint acting officials at several agencies, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. It has obtained the approval of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to not follow succession statutes by instead invoking the complex Federal Vacancies Reform Act.