- Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said he still didn’t “know what happened,” during an hours-long private meeting between President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and their translators.
- Coats said he would have advised Trump not to meet Putin alone and hoped Trump would have “made a different statement.”
- Coats’s remarks reportedly ruffled feathers in the White House.
- People close to Trump reportedly speculated whether the president would fire Coats, with one source saying Trump never had a liking for him.
An interview with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats reportedly ruffled feathers in the White House, particularly after the US intelligence chief made remarks that appeared to undercut President Donald Trump’s appearance at the Helsinki summit on Monday.
Speaking to NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell at the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday, Coats said he still didn’t “know what happened,” during an hours-long private meeting between Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and translators.
“If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way,” Coats said. “But that’s not my role, that’s not my job. It is what it is.”
Coats said he would have advised Trump not to meet with Putin alone and hoped Trump would have “made a different statement.”
Coats also appeared to be caught by surprise on a major White House announcement: that Trump had invited Putin to visit Washington in the fall – the first such visit in nearly 13 years.
Andrea Mitchell: We have some breaking news. The WH has announced Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats: Say that again.
AM: Vladimir Putin—
DC: Did I hear you?
DC: Ok… That's gonna be special. pic.twitter.com/zIKVECPm2x
— David Mack (@davidmackau) July 19, 2018
The US intelligence chief was not the only official left in in the dark after Trump’s summit. Other officials familiar with the White House’s scheduling say the White House has been so busy mitigating the backlash that the debriefings that would have normally taken place had yet to be conducted, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
Following Coats’s interview, people close to Trump have reportedly speculated whether Trump would fire Coats, with one source telling Axios that the president never had a liking for him.
Trump’s remarks during a joint press conference with Putin on Monday were widely condemned by both political parties. Answering questions from reporters, Trump stopped short of condemning Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US election and appeared to take Putin’s denial at face value.
Trump later said he misspoke about Russia’s election interference and meant to say he did not “see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.”
The White House continued to fuel the week-long fire when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee announced on Wednesday that Trump was considering a widely-panned request from Russia. Sanders said the White House was considering Russia’s idea of allowing its officials to interview 11 Americans – including former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul – in exchange for special counsel Robert Mueller to interview 12 Russians indicted for meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
On Thursday, Sanders said in a statement that Trump disagreed with the proposal.
While the White House appeared to be considering the idea, lawmakers scrambled to issue a unified response against Russia. Minutes after Sanders announced Trump’s disapproval of Russia’s request, the Senate adopted a non-binding resolution that would bar US officials from being questioned by the Kremlin in a 98-0 vote.