U.S. President Donald Trump’s director of national intelligence (DNI) says he did not mean to be disrespectful toward the president when he responded to news that Russian leader Vladimir Putin would likely soon visit the White House.
Dan Coats on July 21 issued a statement after U.S. media reported Trump was angry with an interview that Coats gave at the Aspen Institute security forum in Colorado on July 19, when he laughed and at times appeared to mock the president.
“Some press coverage has mischaracterized my intentions in responding to breaking news presented to me during a live interview. My admittedly awkward response was in no way meant to be disrespectful or criticize the actions of the president," Coats said in his statement.
"I and the entire intel community are committed to providing the best possible intelligence to inform and support President Trump’s ongoing efforts to prevent Russian meddling in our upcoming elections, to build strong relationships internationally in order to maintain peace, denuclearize dangerous regimes, and protect our nation and our allies," Coats added.
In the televised interview, the 75-year-old Coats said he wished Trump had not met one-on-one with Putin and expressed disappointment that Trump had publicly undermined U.S. intelligence agencies.
He was on stage when he was informed by MSNBC journalist Andrea Mitchell about Trump inviting Putin to a second summit in Washington.
"Say that again. Did I hear you?" he asked, while chuckling and appearing confused. "OK. That's going to be special."
Trump has faced sharp criticism from U.S. lawmakers -- including key Republicans -- and others who denounced his performance at a joint press conference with Putin following their Helsinki meeting.
Trump appeared to give credence to denials by Putin that Russia had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election or was planning to act similarly in the future, despite the conclusions of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies and congressional committees that Moscow intervened in the 2016 election with a state-directed campaign of e-mail hacking and public opinion manipulation.
Many critics also complained that there was no record of agreements, if any, that were reached between the two during their one-on-one meeting.
During his presidential campaign and into his presidency, Trump has consistently said he seeks better relations with Russia and Putin in particular.