U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats seemed to have been in the dark about Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s White House invitation.
The official was informed about the invite on live television, while he was speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
As he spoke, news was breaking out of Washington that Putin had been invited to the White House this fall. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who was moderating the event, shared the development.
“Say that again?” Coats said, cupping his hand over his ear.
He took a deep breath and continued, saying: “OK.”
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Coats said it was news to him.
“That’s going to be special,” he added, prompting laughter from the audience.
During the event, Coats also claimed that he didn’t know exactly what happened during U.S. President Donald Trump‘s meeting with Putin earlier this week.
“I don’t know what happened in that meeting,” he said.
Coats, who oversees the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies, also said that if he had been asked, he would have advised Trump against meeting Putin alone, with just interpreters.
The president’s pro-Russia remarks often put the intelligence chief, who has criticized Russia for years, in a tough position.
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That happened following Trump and Putin’s Finland meeting this week, when Coats had to reiterate the U.S. intelligence position on Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
In a statement, Coats restated the U.S. intelligence assessment about Russian meddling and Moscow’s “ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.”
The former Republican lawmaker was banned from travelling to Russia in 2014 for calling out its annexation of Crimea. He has continued to raise the alarm on Russia since his appointment by Trump as intelligence chief in March 2017.