'Coats Has Gone Rogue': White House Staffers Reportedly Fear Trump's Wrath After Top Official Goes Off Script
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats gave a rare interview Thursday live at the Aspen Security Forum with NBC's Andrea Mitchell — and he may have infuriated President Donald Trump in the process.
White House staffers are bracing for the president's reaction to Coats' performance, according to the Washington Post. One staffer reportedly said, "Coats has gone Rogue."
What did he do to cause such an uproar? First, he doubled down on a statement he released earlier in the week reiterating the intelligence community's finding that Russia actively interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Trump had cast doubt Monday on this finding and even mentioned Coats by name while holding a Helsinki press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"I believed I needed to correct the record,” Coats told Mitchell, referring to his statement contradicting the president. “Obviously, I wished he had made a different statement.”
According to the Post, Trump aides feared Coats might resign earlier in the week, prompting the president to praise the director in a CBS interview on Wednesday. So Coats' statement that Trump made a mistake at the Helsinki summit — which even the president has acknowledged — might not be enough to draw the president's ire.
But another moment during Coats' Thursday interview has the potential to infuriate the president. In the middle of the interview, Mitchell broke the news that the White House had invited Putin for a meeting in the United States. Coats looked shocked, spontaneously laughed, and said, "Okay... that's going to be special."
"White House aides are worried Trump will interpret Coats’ comments as a personal act of betrayal, coming so soon after the president’s praise for him," the Post reports. "Explaining that Trump does not take kindly to slights and nurses grudges, one official predicted that Coats’ Aspen interview could bother the president more than the many ethical blunders of Scott Pruitt, who was ousted as Environmental Protection Agency administrator."