Intel chief: I’m not in a position to ‘understand fully’ what happened at Trump-Putin meeting

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Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Thursday that he’s still not able to “fully understand or talk about” what took place in President Trump’s private meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month.

After telling reporters that Trump had specifically directed them to secure U.S. elections against foreign influence campaigns, Coats was asked about the disconnect between his statements and the president’s public comments in Finland two weeks ago, when he cast doubt on whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. 

“I’m not in a position to either understand fully or talk about what happened in Helsinki,” Coats said, before ceding the podium to national security adviser John Bolton.

Bolton then explained that Trump raised the issue of election meddling with Putin.

{mosads}“The president has made it abundantly clear to anybody who has responsibility in this area that he cares deeply about it and that he expects them to do their jobs to their fullest ability,” Bolton said.

Democratic lawmakers have raised concerns that little information is available about what took place in a two-hour, one-on-one meeting Trump held with Putin in Helsinki.

Coats, Bolton and three other top intelligence officials attended a White House press briefing to discuss the Trump administration’s efforts to combat foreign efforts to influence U.S. elections.

Each official emphasized that they continued to see efforts from Russia to influence future elections and vowed that the administration was doing all it could to blunt those campaigns.

“Our focus here today is simply to tell the American people we acknowledge the threat, it is real, it is continuing, and we’re doing everything we can to have a legitimate election that the American people can have trust in,” Coats said.

Trump drew bipartisan criticism in the aftermath of his meeting with Putin. While he attempted to smooth over his remarks upon returning to Washington, the president muddled the walk back when he said others in addition to Russia could have been responsible for the 2016 interference.

Trump caused a stir when he later said “no” to reporters asking whether he believed Russia continued to pose a threat. However, the White House said the president was saying “no” to fielding additional questions.

Coats reportedly angered other Trump officials with public remarks the week of the Putin press conference, in which he said he would have advised against meeting one-on-one with the Russian president and expressed surprise that Trump had invited Putin to the White House this fall.

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