0:35
Watch Coats learn that Putin is invited to visit the White House

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats reacted to breaking news that Russian President Vladimir Putin could be visiting the White House in the fall. 

Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats on Thursday acknowledged that he did not know what took place in President Trump’s one-on-one meeting in Helsinki with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, even as the White House announced plans to invite the Russian leader to Washington for a second meeting in the fall.

“Well, you’re right. I don’t know what happened in that meeting,” Coats told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell in an interview at the Aspen Security Forum. He said that while it was Trump’s prerogative to decide how to conduct the meeting, he would have advised the president otherwise.

“If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way,” Coats said. “But that’s not my role; that’s not my job. So, it is what it is.”

Coats, who on Monday issued a statement standing by the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, also said that he would have liked to have seen Trump strike a different tone in his extraordinary 46-minute news conference with Putin.

“Obviously, I wish that he’d made a different statement,” Coats said when asked about Trump’s remarks on Monday defending Putin. “But I think that now that has been clarified, based on his late reactions to this, and so I don’t think I want to go any further than that.”

The statement from Coats came as the White House announced that Trump had asked National Security Adviser John Bolton to invite Putin to Washington in the fall. Trump earlier Thursday had said in a tweet that he looks forward to a second meeting with the Russian president, without giving any further details..

 1:30
Coats: ‘I don’t know what happened’ in Trump-Putin private meeting

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats spoke on July 19 about the one-on-one meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

“In Helsinki, @POTUS agreed to ongoing working level dialogue between the two security council staffs,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a tweet Thursday afternoon. “President Trump asked @Ambjohnbolton to invite President Putin to Washington in the fall and those discussions are already underway.”

Trump told law­makers this week he and Putin had made “significant progress toward addressing” key issues. U.S. officials have offered few specifics on what was accomplished on those subjects beyond what Sanders on Wednesday called “the beginning of a dialogue with Russia.”

The president’s longest encounter with Putin, a two-hour-plus session, included no other officials or note-takers, just interpreters.

In a brief speech Thursday to Russian diplomats in Moscow, Putin said the Helsinki summit had led to “useful agreements.” Now, he said, both U.S. jobs and European and Middle Eastern security hang in the balance as Trump’s U.S. opponents try to block the path to improving relations between Moscow and Washington.

 0:32
Trump calls his foreign meetings ‘a tremendous success’

President Trump held a Cabinet meeting at the White House on July 18, and touted his “historic” visit to Europe as “a tremendous success.” 

“We will see how things go, as some forces in America are trying to belittle and disavow the results of the Helsinki meeting,” Putin said. “We see that there are forces in the United States ready to sacrifice Russian-American relations for their own domestic political ambitions.”

A day earlier, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, told reporters in Moscow “important verbal agreements” were reached at the Helsinki meeting.

That includes preservation of the New START and INF agreements, major bilateral arms-control treaties whose futures have been in question, Antonov said. He also relayed Putin had made “specific and interesting proposals to Washington” on how the two countries could cooperate on Syria.

In the United States, the focus in the days since the summit has been on Trump’s views on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and the degree to which Russia remains a threat — as well as what was accomplished.

Earlier Thursday, Trump lashed out on Twitter about news media coverage of Monday’s summit, which has focused heavily on Trump’s refusal to publicly confront Putin about Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“The Summit with Russia was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the Fake News Media,” Trump wrote. “I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed, including stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace, North Korea and more. There are many answers, some easy and some hard, to these problems . . . but they can ALL be solved!”

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

The Summit with Russia was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the Fake News Media. I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed, including stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear……..

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

….proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace, North Korea and more. There are many answers, some easy and some hard, to these problems…but they can ALL be solved!

Meanwhile, the fallout continued on Capitol Hill.

Senate Republicans blocked two attempts to pass resolutions backing the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, while insisting that the president cooperate with the Mueller investigation and take punitive steps against the Russian government for the threat it continues to pose.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) argued against voting on the first resolution, presented by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), saying that it was an unwarranted attempt to engage in diplomacy and that “Trump derangement syndrome has officially come to the Senate.”

Sanders shot back, arguing that his resolution simply sought to affirm the intelligence community’s determinations in the face of the president’s equivocation and protect the sanctity of the special counsel’s probe.

Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) also unsuccessfully attempted to secure a vote on a resolution throwing support behind the intelligence community’s determinations and the Justice Department for Mueller’s probe and calling on the president to fully implement the sanctions that Congress passed last year.

But Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) objected, dismissing the bipartisan effort as needlessly “symbolic.”

“Yes it’s symbolic. The symbolism is important. Our agencies of government need to know that we stand behind them. That’s what this is about,” a visibly frustrated Flake retorted on the floor. He promised to raise the resolution again and predicted that “ultimately it will pass.”

McConnell has already called on the chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations and Banking committees to hold a new round of hearings on sanctions and other matters related to Russian aggression.

On Thursday, the Republican leader scheduled a floor vote on only one of the many resolutions being offered: a measure from Democratic Sens. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), Robert Menendez (N.J.) and Brian Schatz (Hawaii) expressing the sense of Congress that the United States should not make any current or former American diplomats, political appointees, troops or law enforcement officials available to Russian authorities for interviews.

On Monday, Putin raised the possibility of interviewing Russian officials indicted in Mueller’s probe in exchange for granting Russia the same access to similar American officials. In the days since, Putin has expressed a particular interest in interviewing former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.

None of the resolutions offered Thursday would be binding.

Schumer, meanwhile, expressed exasperation on the Senate floor that so little is known about what took place behind closed doors between Trump and Putin.

He called for bringing in Trump administration officials who were present at the summit, including the interpreter who accompanied Trump in the private meeting with Putin, “so we all know what happened.”

“Do we know if President Trump made commitments about the security of Israel or Syria of North Korea or any of the other issues the president said he discussed with Putin?” Schumer asked. “It is utterly amazing, utterly amazing, that no one knows what was said. This is a democracy. If our president makes agreements with one of our leading — if not our leading — adversary, his Cabinet has to know about it, and so do the American people.”

The prospect of calling Trump’s interpreter to testify generated some intense debate Thursday.

Flake advocated at least getting the interpreter’s notes.

“I mean, when the Russian ambassador is saying that important verbal agreements were reached, we don’t know what those are? I mean, how are we going to know what those are? The White House isn’t saying.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he thought it would not be appropriate to interview the interpreter.

“I think we’re moving to a precedent that unless some crime has been committed is unprecedented and just not appropriate,” he said. “I will stand with anybody in my challenging of what’s occurred around Russia. There’s nobody that’s been more concerned about that. . . . If someone can convince me otherwise, I’d be glad to reconsider.”

House Democrats introduced a package of measures Thursday dubbed “The Secure America from Russian Interference Act of 2018.” Though Democratic leaders called for bipartisan support of the wide-ranging legislation, that appeared unlikely.

While Trump asserted that only the media has panned his summit with Putin, some of the harshest criticism of his performance in a joint news conference with the Russian leader has come from fellow Republicans.

On Tuesday, Trump sought to tamp down criticism of his performance in Helsinki by affirming his support for the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia was behind the attack on the election.

Trump ignited another firestorm Wednesday by appearing to suggest Russia is no longer seeking to interfere in U.S. elections — prompting the White House to assert hours later his words were misconstrued.

In his remarks Thursday, Schumer blasted Trump for “all his walkbacks.”

“Frankly, any post hoc clarifications cannot substitute or repair the president’s failure to confront Putin face to face.”

Vice President Pence, meanwhile, defended the administration’s approach to Russia. During a speech in St. Louis, he cited a series of sanctions, expulsion of diplomats and other steps taken in retaliation for Russia’s interference and other actions.

“We’ve met Russian aggression with American strength and action,” Pence said.

Seung Min Kim, Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan in Washington and Anton Troianovski and Natalia Abbakumova in Moscow contributed to this report.

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