National Intelligence Director Dan Coats was surprised to learn Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been invited to the White House this fall.
A moderator at the Aspen Security Forum, where Coats was speaking in Colorado, broke into their conversation to describe the invitation.
"Say that again," Coats said, cupping his ear.
He took a deep breath and continued, "OK."
Then he smiled and said, "That’s going to be special."
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that President Donald Trump has asked national security adviser John Bolton to invite Putin to Washington in the fall.
Sanders said "those discussions are already underway" for a fall meeting between the two presidents.
It presumably would take place at the White House, but Sanders did not say where Trump and Putin would meet.
In a tweet about Putin earlier Thursday, Trump said, "I look forward to our second meeting."
Coats also said he wishes President Trump made different statements in Helsinki, where he appeared to give credence to Russia’s denial of interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
But Coats says he was just doing his job when he quickly issued a statement Monday to rebut Trump’s comments, which were made while standing next to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Coats is restating the U.S. intelligence assessment about Russian meddling and Moscow’s "ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy."
He said he thought it was important to express support for the intelligence professionals he represents and he was happy Trump worked to clarify his statement.
Coats spoke Thursday at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
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