U.S. Director of Intelligence Dan Coats said his “awkward response” to news that President Donald Trump was planning a second summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin was in no way meant to “disrespect or criticize the actions of the president.”
While taking questions at the Aspen Institute in Colorado for the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday, Coats was informed by NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell that Trump had invited Putin to the White House.
“Say that again,” Coats responded, laughing. “Did I hear you? OK, that’s going to be special.” (RELATED: Dan Coats Finds Out Putin Is Coming To White House During Live Interview)
Coats walked back his remarks in a statement issued Saturday.
“Some press coverage has mis-characterized my intentions in responding to breaking news presented to me during a live interview. My admittedly awkward response was in no way meant to be disrespectful or criticize the actions of the president,” Coats said.
“I and the entire intel community are committed to providing the best possible intelligence to inform and support President Trump’s ongoing efforts to prevent Russian meddling in our upcoming elections, to build strong relationships internationally in order to maintain peace, denuclearize dangerous regimes and protect our nation and our allies.”
Trump has been under fire since his meeting with Putin in Helsinki on Monday, where he cast doubt on U.S. intelligence officials who believe that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential elections.
“People came to me, Dan Coats came to me, and some others — they said they think it’s Russia,” Trump said during the joint press conference with Putin on Monday. “I have president Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
After intense backlash for his comment, Trump later insisted he misspoke, saying instead he had no reason to believe “it wouldn’t be Russia” who interfered, he said Tuesday.
“Obviously I wished he had made a different statement, but I think that now that has been clarified, based on his late reactions to this, and so I don’t think I want to go any further than that,” Coats, who was in Aspen as the Helsinki visit was taking place, said regarding Trump’s remarks.
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