Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats seemed stunned to learn during a live Q&A that President Donald Trump invited Russian leader Vladimir Putin to the White House.
During a discussion with MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado, the reporter interrupted their chat to announce the breaking news from the Trump administration.
“The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall,” Mitchell said.
Coats paused, leaned in and asked, “Say that again?” as the audience erupted in laughter.
He continued, “Did I hear you … ?” After another pause, he said, “OK. That’s going to be special.”
Earlier in the discussion, Coats continued to defend the U.S. intelligence community’s finding on Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, amid Trump’s multiple comments this week to the contrary. He also talked about his public rebuke of the president on Monday, shortly after Trump refused to hold Putin and the Kremlin responsible for the election interference at a joint news conference in Helsinki.
“I was just doing my job,” Coats told the audience of his statement that clearly said Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election occurred and the foreign actor’s “ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.”
On Wednesday, Trump answered “no” to a question from a reporter on whether Russia was still targeting the U.S. His press secretary later said that his “no” response was misinterpreted.
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