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ASPEN, Colo. — Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, said Thursday he wished President Donald Trump had not met alone with Vladimir Putin of Russia.
In an extraordinary acknowledgement, the nation’s spy chief said he had no idea what was said in the Helsinki summit Monday between Trump and the Russian president.
“If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way,” Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana, told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell at the Aspen Security Forum. “But that’s not my role, that’s not my job…it is what it is.”
While Coats was speaking in Aspen, the White House announced that Trump has asked that Putin be invited to Washington in the fall. Questioned about the announcement, Coats said he was unaware of the invitation.
Later, Coats added that his office would brief Trump on the intelligence risks of having Putin in the country. And he said he would recommend they not meet alone.
Coats also expressed displeasure over Trump’s comments in Helsinki seeming to question the unanimous U.S. intelligence assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. As DNI, Coats oversees the CIA, NSA and 14 other intelligence agencies.
“I wish he had made a different statement, but I think that now that has been clarified based on his late reactions to this,” Coats said.
“It’s undeniable that the Russians are taking the lead on this,” Coats added. “They are the ones that are trying to undermine our basic values. We need to make sure that we call them out on this, that they are not able to make sure they can do this in elections coming up.”
On Friday, Coats said in a speech that Russia continues to seek to undermine American democracy by planting propaganda on American social media. While the U.S. currently sees no evidence of an attempt to interfere directly in the 2018 midterm election, “it’s just one click of the keyboard that could change this narrative,” he told Mitchell.