U.S. President Donald Trump’s strangely friendly relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin is well documented at this point. That friendliness drove a recent Trump/Putin summit to the front of the national U.S. political conversation thanks to how much Trump suckered up to the dictatorial leader.
He left the U.S. and its intelligence community behind — including current Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who he appointed.
Coats has countered Trump on the severity and certainty of Russian election meddling this week, and it’s left some unnamed presidential advisers angry, according to The Washington Post. They’re upset about the “optics” of a Thursday appearance Coats made in Aspen, Colorado, where he spoke to reporter Andrea Mitchell about topics including Trump and Russian meddling. They take the interview to be “especially damaging,” according to the outlet.
One adviser, remaining unnamed, went so far as to quip:
‘Coats has gone rogue.’
Coats’ time at the Aspen Security Forum was marked by instances including him learning for the first time that after the contentious recent Trump/Putin summit, Trump decided to invite the Russian leader to the White House later this fall. The last time he came to the U.S., he attended the 70th Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2015; at that time, he held a meeting with then-President Barack Obama. Before that, he hadn’t visited the U.S. since the closing years of the George W. Bush administration in 2007.
DNI Coats has not been kept in the loop about the current president’s interactions with Putin. Besides being taken by surprise at a looming Trump/Putin meeting in the U.S. in the fall, he also shared that he was not consulted ahead of the recent one-on-one the two leaders had in Helsinki, Finland. If he had been consulted, he would have advised against it, he said, adding that he does not know the extent of the leaders’ discussions behind closed doors — despite the fact that he is the current Director of National Intelligence.
His Thursday comments in Aspen came after days of back and forth between him and the White House. On Monday, he flatly denied the president’s claim Russia might not have meddled after all, something Trump himself eventually tried to walk back.
Behind the scenes, Trump advisers then pushed the president to praise Coats in an effort to patch things up and keep him on board, which Trump did in a Wednesday night CBS appearance. Staffers sent Coats a transcript of that interview.
Against that backdrop, Trump officials speaking to The Post are concerned about the president’s impending reaction to Coats’ Aspen appearance, imagining he might take it as a “betrayal” because of how soon he was again differing with the president after Trump “reached out” Wednesday night on CBS.
An unnamed senior U.S. intelligence official commented:
‘For someone in the White House to criticize Dan Coats for speaking truth to power is unfair.’
Although that may be the case, it’s not as though the current White House operates fairly. Fairness would be to give more weight to the U.S. intelligence agencies’ word than the word of Vladimir Putin — something Trump has not consistently done.
Featured Image via YouTube screenshot