The top U.S. intelligence official is saying he meant no disrespect to President Trump in a televised interview discussing the summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats saysat the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado were not intended to be critical of the president's handling of the summit.
Coats has been under scrutiny since he said he wished Mr. Trump had not met one-on-one with the Russian leader, expressed dismay that the president had publicly undermined U.S. intelligence agencies, and appeared surprised by the revelation that Mr. Trump invited Vladimir Putin to a meeting in Washington later this year.
"Some press coverage has mischaracterized my intentions in responding to breaking news presented to me during a live interview. My admittedly awkward response was in no way meant to be disrespectful or criticize the actions of the president," Coats said in a statement.
"I and the entire intel community are committed to providing the best possible intelligence to inform and support President Trump's ongoing efforts to prevent Russian meddling in our upcoming elections, to build strong relationships internationally in order to maintain peace, denuclearize dangerous regimes and protect our nation and our allies."
On Thursday, Coats said he still doesn't know what happened in the one-on-one meeting between Mr. Trump and Putin in Helsinki, Finland. Coats said he hoped to learn more about the meeting, where only Mr. Trump, Putin and interpreters were present. "That is the president's prerogative. If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted I would have suggested a different way, but that's not my role, that's not my job," Coats said Thursday.
The news of the White House invitation to Putin appeared to surprise Coats Thursday.
"Say that again?" Coats said when NBC's Andrea Mitchell announced the news at the end of the on-stage interview.
"Okaayyy," he added. "That's gonna be special."