US Spy Chief: ‘I Don’t Know What Happened’ in Helsinki

By Kevin Baron

July 19, 2018

ASPEN, Colo. — Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said he does not know what President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed in their closed-door summit Monday in Helsinki, Finland.

"I don't know what happened in that meeting," Coats told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell on stage at the Aspen Security Forum here on Thursday. Coats said the format of a one-on-one meeting, with interpreters, was not what he would have recommended, but it was the president’s choice. "It is what it is."

Coats was again surprised when interviewer Mitchell read aloud that the White House announced Putin would visit Washington in the fall. "Say that again? Did I hear you –” the director said. Coats let out a big sigh, and said, “Okaaaaay."

A relatively quiet figure in Washington since he took the nation’s top intelligence job last year, the former senator burst into the public headlines on Monday when he directly counteredTrump’s assertion in Helsinki that Russia may not be attacking the U.S. election process, despite the steady findings of the U.S. intelligence community.

“I just felt at this point in time what we had assessed and reassessed and reassessed and carefully gone over still stands, and that it was important to take that stand on behalf of the intelligence community and on behalf of the America people,” Coats said.
“My thoughts there were that I believed I needed to correct the record for that and that this is the job I signed up for, and that was my responsibility,” Coats said, when asked what he was thinking as Trump made the false claim in Helsinki. “Obviously, I wished he had made a different statement, but I think now that has been clarified based on his late reactions to this.”
Coats said Russia “by far” is cyber-attacking the United States more than other country, from economics to other areas. "It means we are under attack" in every sector.

By Kevin Baron // Kevin Baron is the founding executive editor of Defense One. Baron has lived in Washington for 20 years, covering international affairs, the military, the Pentagon, Congress, and politics for Foreign Policy, National Journal, Stars and Stripes, and the Boston Globe, where he ran investigative projects for five years at the Washington bureau. He is a frequent on-air contributor and previously was national security/military analyst at NBC News & MSNBC. Baron cut his muckraking teeth at the Center for Public Integrity and he is twice a Polk Award winner and former vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. He earned his M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University, his B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond, and studied in Paris. Raised in Florida, Baron now lives in Northern Virginia.

July 19, 2018