It has been almost three weeks since President Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki for two hours, and we still have very little idea what they spoke about.
Apparently we're in the same boat as the head of U.S. intelligence.
During a visit to the White House's daily press briefing with other top national security officials who were there to talk about Russian interference in the 2018 elections, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats was asked what he knew about the Trump-Putin summit.
“I'm not in a position to either understand fully or talk about what happened in Helsinki,” Coats said matter-of-factly.
That's a rather stunning statement. Coats could have just said, “I can't talk about it,” but he also noted that he can't “understand fully.” It remains a mystery to him.
If there is one person who perhaps should be made to fully understand that meeting, Coats might be it. He oversees the government agencies tasked with combating a repeat of what happened in 2016, and he has been out front in raising red flags about the lack of urgency on confronting the ongoing threat.
Coats has made his concerns known both about the lack of preparedness and Trump's conduct in a news conference after the Helsinki summit. “Obviously, I wished he had made a different statement,” Coats said at the Aspen Security Forum two weeks ago. He added: “If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way.”
At the same event, Coats was confronted with breaking news that Trump wanted another summit with Putin, and Coats dropped his guard and made his exasperation clear.
Coats and other officials such as Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and NSA Director Paul Nakasone appeared at the news conference in a clear effort by the White House to counter an onslaught of media reports questioning whether the ongoing threat was being taken seriously less than 100 days before the 2018 elections. A large part of taking that threat seriously would seem to be informing people such as Coats about exactly what Putin and Trump discussed. The fact that that hasn't happened suggests, while these officials may be taking that threat seriously, the head of the executive branch still isn't.