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Coats: No Disrespect Meant to Trump    07/22 10:50

   The top U.S. intelligence official said Saturday he meant no disrespect to 
President Donald Trump in a televised interview discussing the summit with 
Russian President Vladimir Putin.

   BRIDGEWATER, N.J. (AP) -- The top U.S. intelligence official said Saturday 
he meant no disrespect to President Donald Trump in a televised interview 
discussing the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

   Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said his Thursday comments at 
the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado were not intended to be critical of the 
president's decision to invite Putin to a meeting in Washington later this year.

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

   Coats has been under scrutiny since he said he wished Trump had not met 
one-on-one with the Russian leader and expressed dismay that the president had 
publicly undermined U.S. intelligence agencies.

   Coats issued a rare statement rebutting the president's Monday comments 
during a press conference with Putin doubting the findings of the intelligence 
community on Russian election interference. White House aides were fearful that 
the former lawmaker might resign over the president's comments, and the 
president spoke positively of Coats in a television interview Wednesday. But 
Coats' display of surprise upon learning that Trump had invited Putin to 
Washington this fall for a follow-on meeting drew the president's ire.

   "Say that again," Coats said, cupping his hand over his ear on live 
television. He took a deep breath and continued: "OK. That's going to be 
special."

   Coats also revealed in the interview with NBC's Andrea Mitchell that he was 
unaware of what transpired in the private meeting between Trump and Putin in 
Helsinki, and restated without equivocation his belief that Russia continues to 
pose a threat to the American electoral system.

   "Basically, they are the ones that are trying to undermine our basic values 
and divide with our allies," Coats said of Russia. "They are the ones who are 
trying to wreak havoc over our election process."

   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.

   "That's not my role. That's not my job. It is what it is," Coats said.

   The statement Saturday from Coats, more than 48 hours after the initial 
interview, capped a week of public walk backs by the Trump administration 
relating to Russia.

   Trump's public doubting of Russia's culpability for interference in 2016 --- 
though he later tried to "clarify" his remarks a day later --- sparked 
bipartisan condemnation in Washington and sparked congressional lawmakers to 
look once again for ways to tighten sanctions on the longtime U.S. foe.

   Coats, a former GOP senator from Indiana, has until this week been a largely 
invisible figure in Trump's Cabinet. Earlier in the administration, his voice 
was drowned out by the more outspoken Mike Pompeo, who was CIA director before 
Trump tapped him as secretary of state. Now with Pompeo heading the State 
Department, Coats has been thrust into the limelight as the voice of the 
intelligence community.


(KA)

 
 
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