Coats: No Disrespect Meant to Trump 07/22 10:50
The top U.S. intelligence official said Saturday he meant no disrespect to
President Donald Trump in a televised interview discussing the summit with
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
BRIDGEWATER, N.J. (AP) -- The top U.S. intelligence official said Saturday
he meant no disrespect to President Donald Trump in a televised interview
discussing the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said his Thursday comments at
the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado were not intended to be critical of the
president's decision to invite Putin to a meeting in Washington later this year.
"Some press coverage has mischaracterized my intentions in responding to
breaking news presented to me during a live interview," Coats said. "My
admittedly awkward response was in no way meant to be disrespectful or
criticize the actions of the president."
Coats has been under scrutiny since he said he wished Trump had not met
one-on-one with the Russian leader and expressed dismay that the president had
publicly undermined U.S. intelligence agencies.
Coats issued a rare statement rebutting the president's Monday comments
during a press conference with Putin doubting the findings of the intelligence
community on Russian election interference. White House aides were fearful that
the former lawmaker might resign over the president's comments, and the
president spoke positively of Coats in a television interview Wednesday. But
Coats' display of surprise upon learning that Trump had invited Putin to
Washington this fall for a follow-on meeting drew the president's ire.
"Say that again," Coats said, cupping his hand over his ear on live
television. He took a deep breath and continued: "OK. That's going to be
Coats also revealed in the interview with NBC's Andrea Mitchell that he was
unaware of what transpired in the private meeting between Trump and Putin in
Helsinki, and restated without equivocation his belief that Russia continues to
pose a threat to the American electoral system.
"Basically, they are the ones that are trying to undermine our basic values
and divide with our allies," Coats said of Russia. "They are the ones who are
trying to wreak havoc over our election process."
Coats, who oversees the nation's 17 intelligence agencies, also said that if
he had been asked, he would have advised Trump against meeting Putin alone,
with just interpreters.
"That's not my role. That's not my job. It is what it is," Coats said.
The statement Saturday from Coats, more than 48 hours after the initial
interview, capped a week of public walk backs by the Trump administration
relating to Russia.
Trump's public doubting of Russia's culpability for interference in 2016 ---
though he later tried to "clarify" his remarks a day later --- sparked
bipartisan condemnation in Washington and sparked congressional lawmakers to
look once again for ways to tighten sanctions on the longtime U.S. foe.
Coats, a former GOP senator from Indiana, has until this week been a largely
invisible figure in Trump's Cabinet. Earlier in the administration, his voice
was drowned out by the more outspoken Mike Pompeo, who was CIA director before
Trump tapped him as secretary of state. Now with Pompeo heading the State
Department, Coats has been thrust into the limelight as the voice of the