Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told reporters on Thursday that he was not in a position to “either understand fully or talk about” what happened in Helsinki when President Donald Trump appeared to publicly embrace Vladimir Putin’s denial of election meddling.
Coats tossed the question to National Security Adviser John Bolton when he was asked to explain the “disconnect” between what the President’s advisers have said on the issue of Russian interference in the 2016 election and what President Trump has said on the issue.
“I’m not in a position to either understand fully or talk about what happened in Helsinki,” he said.
Director of National Intelligence on what happened in Helsinki: "I'm not in a position to either understand fully or talk about what happened in Helsinki." pic.twitter.com/NVsMfEvKPZ
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) August 2, 2018
While the dodge could be seen as a deflection simply because he was not in Helsinki during the summit with Putin, his response was particularly telling given Coats’ initial criticism of Trump’s press conference with Putin last month.
After the presser, Coats released a statement firmly reiterating that Russia did meddle in the 2016 election and that the adversary is continuing to try to influence 2018 elections. Later that same week, he said he wished that Trump had “made a different statement” while standing beside Putin in Helsinki.
During the press conference following his one-on-one meeting with Putin, Trump told reporters that he didn’t see any reason why it would be Russia that meddled in the election. Days later, he told reporters he misspoke and meant to say “wouldn’t” instead of would.