When Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats laughed during an interview at the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday, staffers back at the White House groaned.
Coats was onstage with Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, when she broke the news to him that the White House had announced the Trump administration invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington this fall. He chuckled, and revealed he knew nothing about this, adding, "That's going to be special." He also told Mitchell he would have advised President Trump not to meet with Putin in Helsinki on Monday, especially with only two interpreters in the room with them.
Trump advisers were "in an uproar," staffers told The Washington Post, with one senior official saying, "Coats has gone rogue." They are concerned that Trump will view the incident as Coats laughing at him in a public arena, and he'll feel betrayed, since he flattered Coats during an interview Wednesday with CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor.
One White House staffer told the Post Coats' comments could bother Trump more than the scandals that swirled around former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, but a senior intelligence official said Coats gets along fine with Trump, and they are in regular communication. "For someone in the White House to criticize Dan Coats for speaking truth to power is unfair," the official said.