Andrea Mitchell: We have some breaking news. The WH has announced Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.— David Mack (@davidmackau) July 19, 2018
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
Just days after President Donald Trump refused to call out Russian President Vladimir Putin for meddling in the 2016 election and appeared to side with the foreign despot over his own intelligence agencies, the White House revealed the commander-in-chief had asked National Security Advisor John Bolton to invite Putin to Washington D.C.
The announcement was made over the president’s favorite mode of communication – Twitter – and his own intelligence chief was apparently one of the last people to find out about it.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was in the middle of a live interview at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado when he was told about Trump’s decision to invite his Russian counterpart to the White House – and his reaction said it all.
“Say that again,” Coats asked hesitantly after NBC News' Andrea Mitchell broke the news. “Did I hear you, did I hear you?” he added when the host began to repeat her statement, drawing laughter from the crowd.
When Mitchell confirmed Coats had indeed heard her correctly, he responded with, “OK. That's gonna be special.”
Although it might seem comical to some, the situation is anything but funny.
In fact, it is alarming that Trump would actually extend invitation to Putin at a time when special counselor Robert Mueller is investigating if Russian operatives colluded with the Trump campaign to influence the result of presidential election – and that too without bothering to check in with (or even inform) the director of national intelligence.
Later during the Aspen conference, a reporter asked Coats if he really didn’t know about Putin’s impending visit.
“I think based on my reaction I wasn't aware of that,” he replied.
That invitation was not the only thing Coats was apparently unaware of.
“I don't know what happened in that meeting,” he told Mitchell, referring to the private one-on-one meeting between Putin and Trump in Helsinki, Finland, which was barred to both of their aides and even the official stenographer. “If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way, but that's not my role. It is what it is.”
Asked if he would recommend against another similar meeting between the two world leaders, the intelligence chief said, “If I were asked that question, I would look for a different way of doing it.”
Although Trump tried to walk back on his criticism of intelligence agencies and claimed he misspoke during the summit with his Russian counterpart, it’s pretty apparent that he doesn’t even hold his own national intelligence director in high regard or confers with him on matters of such importance.
Dan Coats didn’t seem to know Putin was invited to DC. He doesn’t know what Trump and Putin spoke about either. This is the director of national intelligence. He’s on an island, in Aspen.— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) July 19, 2018
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images