Dan Coats, President Donald Trump’s director of national intelligence, doubled down Thursday in his criticism of the president ― specifically, Trump’s apparent desire to downplay the matter of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“I was just doing my job,” Coats told an audience at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado, defending a public rebuke he’d issued on Monday after Trump claimed Russia hadn’t targeted the U.S.
“As I expressed to the president on my third visit to the Oval Office as his adviser, I said: ‘Mr. President, there will be times I have to bring news to you that you don’t want to hear. But know that it will to the best extent be unvarnished, non-politicized, and the best our incredible intelligence community can produce.’”
Coats was speaking to moderator Andrea Mitchell, who noted that not only did Trump side with Russian President Vladimir Putin despite numerous well-substantiated assessments from U.S. intelligence, he went so far as to call out Coats by name.
“I just felt at this point in time that what we had assessed and reassessed and reassessed, and carefully gone over, still stands,” Coats said Thursday. “And that it was important to make that stand on behalf of the intelligence community, and on behalf of the American people.”
Trump has since sought to clean up his comments, saying he “accepts” the U.S. intelligence findings ― though he’s also walked back that stance.
Coats also expressed misgivings about Trump having a one-on-one meeting with Putin, saying he would’ve suggested a different format. “But that’s not my job,” he conceded.
Regardless of what the president ultimately believes, Coats said he himself feels a duty to stand by the findings of the intelligence community.
“I believed I needed to correct the record for that,” he told Mitchell. “This was the job I signed up for and that was my responsibility. Obviously, I wish he’d made a different statement.”
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