‘Say that again’: US intelligence chief’s incredulous response to Trump's White House invitation to Putin
“Say that again,” said Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, who laughed in awkward incredulity when NBC’s Andrea Mitchell broke the news during an onstage interview at the Aspen Security Form in Colorado.
“Vladimir Putin, coming to…” repeated Ms Mitchell.
“Did I hear you, did I hear you,” Mr Coats garbled, touching his earpiece as if to check he hadn’t been hacked.
“Yah, yah,” replied Ms Mitchell, presumably grinning partly in the knowledge her interview would go viral.
Taking a deep breath, seemingly to summon the strength to speak, Mr Coats sucks in his cheeks and says “OK… That’s going to be special.”
Earlier this week in Helsinki, Mr Trump had a private two-hour meeting with Mr Putin. According to Mr Trump it was “an even better meeting” than the one he shared with Nato.
“While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia. Sadly, it is not being reported that way – the Fake News is going Crazy!” he tweeted.
Video: Dan Coats
Mr Coats was asked if he had any idea of what happened during the meeting, as would perhaps be expected of the national intelligence director.
“Well you’re right, I don’t know what happened in that meeting.” he said frankly, all the while fidgeting on his stool.
“I think as time goes by, and the president has already mentioned some things that happened in that meeting, I think we will learn more but that is the president’s prerogative.
“If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way but that's not my role, that’s not my job, so it is what it is,” he added, philosophically.
Mr Trump, however, claimed that people at “the higher ends of intelligence” loved his performance in Helsinki.
“So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki,” he wrote.
“Putin and I discussed many important subjects at our earlier meeting. We got along well which truly bothered many haters who wanted to see a boxing match. Big results will come!”
In another tweet he said: “Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia. They would rather go to war than see this. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome!”