Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was being interviewed onstage at the Aspen Security Forum Thursday when Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been invited to the White House and that “discussions were already underway” for a second summit.
Coats, a former Republican senator and diplomat, was clearly stunned when his interlocutor, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, broke the news to him. “Say that again. Did I hear you?” he asked. “O.K., that’s going to be special.”
All of a sudden, the conversation took on the contours of an exit interview. Coats, after all, had protested forcefully when Trump, during his joint press conference with Putin on Monday, publicly denigrated the United States intelligence community that Coats leads. “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security,” he wrote in a statement that was reportedly not cleared by the White House.
The strong response whipped up speculation that Coats might be eyeing an exit. According to The Washington Post, senior administration officials were so worried that the national intelligence director was primed to resign that they implored the president to offer Coats a vote of confidence. During an interview with CBS Evening News’s Jeff Glor on Wednesday, Trump praised Coats by name.
SOURCE: ABIGAIL TRACY