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.

Confirmed Cases: 33591

Reported Deaths: 1204
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds264246
DeSoto176718
Madison135536
Jones115949
Neshoba101673
Harrison100312
Rankin99915
Lauderdale93781
Forrest92743
Scott78515
Jackson70417
Copiah62715
Washington62610
Leake59820
Lee57521
Holmes57041
Oktibbeha55728
Wayne55116
Warren54020
Yazoo5336
Grenada5227
Lowndes51513
Leflore50756
Lamar5007
Lincoln49234
Pike46617
Sunflower4368
Monroe43135
Lafayette4194
Covington3965
Panola3926
Bolivar37018
Attala36523
Simpson3603
Newton35210
Adams33218
Tate31912
Pontotoc3166
Marion30812
Chickasaw29119
Claiborne28910
Winston28210
Noxubee2738
Pearl River26932
Jasper2666
Marshall2643
Clay25111
Smith23412
Union23311
Coahoma2136
Clarke21125
Walthall2087
Lawrence1892
Yalobusha1838
Kemper17914
Carroll17111
Humphreys1569
Tallahatchie1564
Montgomery1432
Calhoun1425
Tippah14211
Itawamba1408
Hancock13413
Webster12811
Tunica1153
Jefferson1143
Jefferson Davis1144
Prentiss1113
Greene1089
Amite1043
George943
Wilkinson949
Tishomingo911
Quitman891
Alcorn762
Perry764
Choctaw754
Stone722
Franklin472
Benton420
Sharkey400
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 48588

Reported Deaths: 1042
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5687161
Mobile4315136
Montgomery4275109
Tuscaloosa238248
Marshall181511
Madison16208
Lee146337
Shelby141424
Morgan11575
Baldwin10399
Walker101825
Elmore97519
Dallas9189
Franklin90616
Etowah83413
DeKalb7905
Chambers64727
Autauga64312
Butler63728
Tallapoosa60669
Russell5890
Unassigned53826
Houston5366
Limestone5251
Lauderdale5146
Cullman4905
Lowndes47922
Pike4525
Colbert4426
St. Clair4402
Escambia4358
Calhoun4035
Coffee3923
Covington38110
Bullock36910
Barbour3622
Jackson3432
Talladega3337
Dale3261
Marengo32011
Hale31722
Wilcox2958
Clarke2876
Sumter28512
Winston2773
Chilton2762
Blount2581
Monroe2442
Pickens2446
Marion24114
Randolph2289
Conecuh2187
Macon2029
Choctaw19912
Bibb1981
Greene1888
Perry1791
Henry1403
Crenshaw1253
Washington1217
Lawrence1130
Cherokee1117
Geneva860
Lamar801
Fayette721
Clay692
Coosa601
Cleburne391
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 97°
Columbus
Clear
83° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 93°
Oxford
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 86°
Starkville
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 73°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather