Intel head says he did not intend to criticize Trump

Intel head says he did not intend to criticize Trump
© Greg Nash

Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsHillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Intelligence agencies have stopped collecting cellphone data without warrants: letter This week: Democrats churn toward next phase of impeachment fight MORE said on Saturday that he did not mean to disrespect President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump opens new line of impeachment attack for Democrats Bloomberg to spend 0M on anti-Trump ads in battleground states New witness claims first-hand account of Trump's push for Ukraine probes MORE with his reaction during a recent interview to the news that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been invited to the White House.

Coats, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday, was visibly surprised when NBC’s Andrea Mitchell told him that Putin had been invited to Washington, D.C., for a second meeting this fall.

“Some press coverage has mis-characterized my intentions in responding to breaking news presented to me during a live interview. My admittedly awkward response was in no way meant to be disrespectful or criticize the actions of the president,” Coats said in a statement.

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“I and the entire intel[ligence] community are committed to providing the best possible intelligence to inform and support President Trump’s ongoing efforts to prevent Russian meddling in our upcoming elections, to build strong relationships internationally in order to maintain peace, denuclearize dangerous regimes and protect our nation and our allies,” he continued.

Coats’ reaction to the news made headlines, as it appeared that he had no prior knowledge of the meeting.

“Say that again?” Coats replied to the news, laughing.

“Did I hear you right?” he joked. “OK, that’s gonna be special.”

White House advisers were reportedly upset by Coats' appearance at the security forum, and feared that Trump would view his intelligence director's comments as a personal betrayal.