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Intel chief's shocked reaction to Putin invite

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats reacted to breaking news that Russian President Vladimir Putin is in talks for a visit to Washington in the fall, according to the White House.

Posted: Jul 20, 2018 5:44 PM
Updated: Jul 20, 2018 5:44 PM

The post-Helsinki tension between President Donald Trump and his Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats appeared to have cooled after the President reaffirmed his support for the intelligence community and its assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

Then came Aspen.

"Say that again?" Coats said, incredulously, as he was informed during a live onstage interview that Trump was inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington for a second round of talks. "Okay...that's gonna be special."

Coats' reaction left intelligence officials furious that he had not been informed about the invitation and that the White House tweeted the news while Coats was onstage during the nationally televised security conference in Aspen, Colorado. At the White House, meanwhile, officials fumed about Coats' disapproving reaction to the invitation and his freewheeling comments that offered thinly-veiled criticism of the President.

Officials on both sides of the divide are now openly speculating about Coats' future. The intelligence chief isn't scheduled to return to Washington until Monday.

Coats spoke with Vice President Mike Pence on Friday, according to a person familiar with the call. The two are close and both represented Indiana in Congress.

Coats' telling reaction to Trump's invitation to Putin was just one of several remarkable moments Coats served up during his interview Thursday. He also rebuked Trump's one-on-one meeting with Putin, saying he would have advised against it, and said he thought it was a bad idea for Trump to invite senior Russian officials into the Oval Office last year -- both stunning statements for a senior member of a President's Cabinet to make publicly.

Earlier in the week, it was Coats too who issued a stern statement backing up the intelligence community's assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 election after Trump challenged that assessment alongside Putin.

It wasn't clear whether the President was indeed infuriated by Coats' remarkable appearance, but speculation abounded in Washington that Coats might be in the President's crosshairs.

"We're hearing through channels that the White House, they're mad," a US intelligence official said.

"I think what's on everybody's mind is that we're gonna experience another Comey moment," the official added, referring to the unceremonious firing of former FBI director James Comey.

Coats, for his part, said Thursday that while he has in the past considered resigning, he intends to remain in his position as long as he has "the ability to seek the truth and speak the truth."

Firing would spur criticism from lawmakers

But pushing Coats out could provoke another round of criticism against the President from Republican lawmakers who strongly back Coats and have already rebuked Trump repeatedly this week over his handling of his Putin summit.

"If Coats is fired or pushed out, there will be a rebellion by his former colleagues on the Senate Intel Committee, many of whom are really reassured to know Dan Coats is there," a Senate aide told CNN. "If he resigns in protest or otherwise leaves on his own terms, that's one thing. But if he's fired for simply telling the truth about a conclusion that was unanimously confirmed by the committee, there's not going to be a whole lot of interest in providing political cover for the White House."

An intelligence official said Coats is generally liked and respected by the President because of his laid-back attitude in the briefings.

Trump publicly praised Coats this week in the wake of the fallout from the Helsinki summit, calling Coats "excellent." After saying he did not believe Russia was still a threat, he later said in an interview with CBS on Wednesday that he accepted Coats' assessment that the Russian threat to US elections is ongoing.

"I go along with him. He's a very, he's a great guy. He's a great patriot. He loves his country. And he's only going to say what he truly believes," Trump said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 517138

Reported Deaths: 10306
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison35086559
DeSoto33512432
Hinds32826644
Jackson24938392
Rankin22621405
Lee16564245
Madison14986283
Jones14195248
Forrest13865260
Lauderdale12343323
Lowndes11401193
Lamar10715140
Pearl River9762244
Lafayette8898143
Hancock7854132
Washington7562169
Oktibbeha7246138
Monroe7106179
Pontotoc7071110
Warren6915179
Panola6815136
Neshoba6762210
Marshall6751142
Bolivar6484151
Union647099
Alcorn5969108
Pike5953157
Lincoln5550136
George511380
Prentiss511086
Tippah498483
Itawamba4916107
Scott479599
Tate4790118
Adams4789125
Leflore4765144
Copiah458995
Simpson4587117
Yazoo458692
Wayne444372
Covington435895
Sunflower4338106
Marion4313112
Coahoma4263111
Leake414491
Newton396482
Tishomingo390294
Grenada3799109
Stone366466
Attala342290
Jasper341667
Chickasaw320867
Winston319092
Clay314378
Clarke302095
Calhoun289550
Holmes273789
Smith271452
Yalobusha246547
Tallahatchie233153
Greene225549
Walthall222266
Lawrence221142
Perry214656
Amite210657
Webster207248
Noxubee188943
Montgomery182857
Carroll176341
Jefferson Davis175043
Tunica164139
Benton153539
Kemper145641
Choctaw138027
Claiborne134939
Humphreys132639
Franklin127130
Quitman107928
Wilkinson106539
Jefferson97334
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 849409

Reported Deaths: 16199
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1165042004
Mobile744951384
Madison53605739
Shelby38474373
Baldwin38236590
Tuscaloosa36225644
Montgomery34599784
Lee25712264
Calhoun22652520
Morgan22569411
Etowah20084521
Marshall18878318
Houston17806426
St. Clair16987359
Limestone16220222
Cullman16183306
Elmore15967295
Lauderdale15126308
Talladega14275302
DeKalb13099271
Walker12202380
Blount10803193
Autauga10566157
Jackson10237196
Coffee9447192
Colbert9396210
Dale9052192
Tallapoosa7291202
Russell711965
Chilton7101171
Covington6985197
Escambia6972146
Franklin6379108
Chambers5815142
Marion5451132
Dallas5307210
Pike5135109
Clarke485986
Lawrence4857130
Winston4804111
Geneva4658137
Bibb436795
Barbour370880
Butler3446101
Marengo342593
Monroe338666
Randolph338567
Pickens335590
Fayette332785
Henry321566
Cherokee321264
Hale320289
Crenshaw262278
Washington256952
Cleburne255460
Lamar253755
Clay253169
Macon246667
Conecuh193962
Coosa186248
Lowndes178468
Wilcox178338
Bullock152845
Perry141940
Sumter139841
Greene130845
Choctaw94928
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