Washington: The top US intelligence official said Thursday that, three days after President Donald Trump met privately with Russian leader Vladimir Putin for more than two hours, he does not know what the two men discussed or agreed.
“I don’t know what happened in that meeting,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said.
“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.”
Coats, who oversees and coordinates the CIA, NSA and other US espionage bodies, likewise said at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado, that he was surprised at Thursday’s announcement that discussions were underway over Putin visiting the White House later this year.
He said it was “the president’s prerogative” to keep his discussions with Putin to himself.
But Coat’s remarks came amid reported Russian claims that the two leaders reached unspecified agreements in their meeting.
Coats, whose office briefs Trump almost daily on the most classified information on security threats to the United States, made clear that he did not agree with the president’s decision to meet with Putin one-on-one, with only translators by their sides.
“If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way,” Coats said.
After the summit, when Trump said in a press conference that he accepted Putin’s denial that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, Coats issued an extraordinary statement rejecting that conclusion.
It restated the US intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow did extensively interfere, and continues to interfere.
“I believed I needed to correct the record... that was my responsibility,” Coats said.
“It was important to take that stand on behalf of the intelligence community and on behalf of the American people.”