Intelligence chief Coats says media twisted his awkward 'say again' response to Trump's Putin invite
In a statement on Saturday, Coats sought to clarify his incredulous reaction to the breaking news that Trump invited the Russian leader to a follow-up meeting in the White House in the wake of their first meetup in Helsinki on Monday.
Coats was busy giving a live interview at the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday, when the news caught up with him thanks to MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, who moderated the event. Coats seemed to be completely oblivious to the announcement, as he asked the anchor to "say that again" before adding "OK. That's going to be special" with a smirk.
The media immediately interpreted Coats' peculiar and vague reaction as a clear sign of defiance, with reports piling up that Trump is about to fire the intelligence chief for going "rogue."
"Some press coverage has mischaracterized my intentions in responding to breaking news presented to me during a live interview," Coats stated in a statement on Saturday, admitting that while his reaction was indeed "awkward," it "in no way meant to be disrespectful or criticize the actions of the President."
He went on to highlight the intelligence community's efforts to "inform and support President Trump's ongoing efforts to prevent Russian meddling" in the upcoming midterm elections, as well as to help the US President to "build strong relationships internationally in order to maintain peace,"pave the way for the denuclearization of "dangerous regimes" and ensure the security of the US and its allies.
Before his Aspen Security Forum appearance, Coats was already portrayed as a voice of dissent in the Trump administration by the mainstream media for seemingly standing up to Trump in the wake of the Helsinki summit, which Trump's opponents dubbed "disastrous" and "nothing short of treason."
Shortly after Trump "misspoke" during a post-summit press conference, saying that he doesn't see "any reason why it would be" Russia that meddled in the US presidential election, Coats issued a statement, pointing out that the intelligence community has "been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy."