US Intelligence Chief: ‘I Don’t Know What Happened’ at Trump-Putin Meeting
US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said on Thursday he did not know what happened in the one-on-one meeting in Helsinki between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that has raised concern among many US lawmakers.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress are seeking answers on what agreements Trump may have reached with Putin in their two-hour meeting on Monday in which they were accompanied only by their interpreters.
The White House has faced an uproar over several issues from the summit including Trump’s failure to confront Putin over American intelligence agencies’ findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 US election and Putin’s proposal that Russian authorities be allowed to question US citizens.
“Well, you’re right, I don’t know what happened at that meeting,” Coats said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
“I think as time goes by and the president has already mentioned some things that happened in that meeting, I think we will learn more. But that is the president’s prerogative,” Coats added.
At a post-summit news conference with Putin, Trump responded to a question about Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election by casting doubt on the findings of his own intelligence agencies and denouncing the “stupidity” of US policies.
Coats immediately responded on Monday by releasing a statement firmly supporting US assessments that Russia was involved in “ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.”
Asked about what he thought when he heard Trump’s statements at Helsinki, Coats said: “Well, my thoughts there were that I believed that I needed to correct the record for that.”
“Obviously, I wished he had made a different statement, but I think that now that has been clarified,” he added.
Trump said on Tuesday he misspoke during the news conference and accepted the intelligence agencies’ conclusions.
Trump has called the summit “a great success,” but he has been vague about what he discussed with Putin.
Terrorism, Israel, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, the Middle East and North Korea were among the issues they talked about, Trump said in a tweet on Thursday.
Putin agreed the summit was a success and said on Thursday it “led to some useful agreements,” without providing details.
Coats learned of Trump’s decision to invite Putin to Washington for a second meeting this autumn while he was being interviewed at the Aspen forum.
“OK,” he said to laughter. “That’s going to be special.”
On the prospect of Trump and Putin holding another one-on-one meeting with only their interpreters, Coats said: “I would look for a different way of doing it.”