On Thursday, President Donald Trump formally invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to come to the White House in the fall and this appears to have caught several top officials completely off guard, including National Intelligence Director Dan Coats. 

After NBC’s Andrea Mitchell announced the planned visit during an interview with Coats in Colorado, the intelligence chief responded, “Say that again.”


“Ok,” Coats added before giving a concerned chuckle. “That’s going to be special.”


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Trump had reportedly asked national security adviser John Bolton to invite Putin. In a tweet Thursday morning, Trump said he is looking “forward to our second meeting” with the Russian leader, in which he hopes to discuss terrorism and security for Israel among other issues.


In that same Twitter post, the president also once again blasted the “Fake News Media,” whom he called the “enemy of the people” for criticizing his and Putin’s summit in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday.  Several top Republicans and former and current intelligence chiefs lambasted Trump for showing more trust in Russia than in U.S. intelligence agencies with regards to Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump initially said he believed Putin’s repeated denial of never having meddled, but then claimed he “misspoke” and said he acknowledged that Russia intervened in the election after receiving strong criticism from all sides.

Putin had offered at the Helsinki meeting to assist in special counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia investigation by interrogating 12 Russian intelligence officers who just three days prior to that summit had been indicted for hacking the Democratic National Committee’s emails. Trump said in the post-summit press conference that he was open to the idea of Putin and Russia’s government helping with the probe, another statement that drew harsh rebukes.

No official date has been set for the next summit between Trump and Putin. Should the pair of leaders meet before the midterms in November, however, the outcome of the encounter could further affect those elections. Coats previously said he expects Russia may meddle in the midterms as well.

This latest development also comes after 29-year-old Russian agent Maria Butina — a gun rights activist and former furniture store owner from Siberia — was charged with conspiracy for attempting to use the National Rifle Association and other American organizations as “back channels” to communicate with Republican groups and politicians.

Butina also had the opportunity to ask Trump a question during a debate early in the 2016 election cycle, and was also found to have offered sex in exchange for a visa and a job among other things.

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