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Intelligence Director on Putin Invite: 'Say That Again?'

Trump says Obama was a 'patsy' on Russia
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 20, 2018 6:06 AM CDT
DNI Surprised by News of Trump's Putin Invitation
In this still image from video provided by the Aspen Security Forum, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats speaks at the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday, July 19, 2018, in Aspen, Colorado.   (Aspen Security Forum via AP)

(Newser) – President Trump has invited Vladimir Putin to visit the White House—which was news to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats during a discussion at the Aspen Security Forum Thursday. When MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell said the White House had tweeted the announcement, the clearly surprised Coats said: "Say that again?" Coats, the nation's top intelligence official, said "Did I hear you," per the HuffPost, then paused before saying: "OK. That's going to be special." He said he had been unaware of the invite, but his office would brief Trump on the security issues involved. More:

  • Helsinki regrets. Coats, a former GOP senator appointed by Trump last year, told Mitchell he wished things had happened differently during the president's Helsinki summit with Putin, NBC News reports. He said he wished Trump hadn't met alone with the Russian leader—and hadn't questioned intelligence agencies' conclusions on Russian election interference. "I wish he had made a different statement, but I think that now that has been clarified based on his late reactions to this."

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  • Obama a "patsy" on Russia. In a CNBC interview recorded to air early Friday, Trump said predecessor Barack Obama had been a "total patsy" on Russia, while he had been "far tougher on Russia than any president in many, many years." He promised that if his relationship with Moscow doesn't work out, he will be Putin's "worst enemy."
  • Coats "gone rogue." Insiders tell the Washington Post that White House aides suspect Trump will consider Coats' comments a betrayal—especially since he seems, at times, to be laughing at the president. "Coats has gone rogue," one White House official says.
  • GOP backlash. Republican lawmakers don't seem any more enthusiastic about the proposed Putin visit this fall than Coats does, the AP reports. "I wouldn't do it, that's for damn sure," Alaska's Sen. Dan Sullivan said of the invite. "If the Russians want a better relationship, trips to the White House aren't going to help," the Republican said. "They should stop invading their neighbors." The Kremlin hasn't officially accepted the invitation yet.
(On Thursday, the Senate voted 98-0 against an offer from Putin.)

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