Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Thursday that he felt he "needed to correct the record" following President Trump's comments during the Helsinki summit with Russia President Vladimir Putin, adding that he wished Trump had "made a different statement" as it is "undeniable that the Russians are taking a lead on this."

Our thought bubble: It was a STUNNING interview ... and is already catching heat and attention among Trump loyalists. I've already had two phone calls from sources close to Trump expressing their astonishment. The fact that Trump’s own intelligence director is saying these things is extraordinary. A moment of true and startling independence. Reveals how concerned Coats is about what happened with Putin.

What we're hearing: Sources close to Trump tell Axios that they're already speculating about whether Trump ends up firing Coats. Per a source with knowledge, Trump has never had much affection for Coats.

Why it matters: All week the White House has been trying to clarify Trump's performance at the summit, during which he failed to publicly confront Putin for claiming Russia didn't interfere in the U.S. presidential election, even though the U.S. intelligence community concluded that it had.

The backdrop: Earlier this week, Coats issued a statement reinforcing the intelligence community's assessment that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.

Key quotes, from his interview on MSNBC:

  • Coats said he doesn't know what happened during Trump's closed-door meeting with Putin, and asked if it was recorded by the Russians, he said: “That risk is always there.”
  • How Trump prefers his intelligence briefings: "He likes it orally. He likes examples .... We use models. We use charts. We use a number of things."
  • Coats said the Oval Office meeting between Trump and former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, during which Trump shared classified information, was “probably not the best thing to do."
  • His take on Putin: "Look, I think anybody who thinks that Vladimir Putin doesn't have a stamp on everything that happens in Russia is misinformed. It is very clear that virtually nothing happens there of any kind of consequence that Vladimir Putin doesn't know about or hasn't ordered. I think we're pretty sure about that."  

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

Fauci says if people won't wear masks, maybe it should be mandated

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Graeme Jennings- Pool/Getty Images

NIAID director Anthony Fauci told CNN on Friday evening that if "people are not wearing masks, then maybe we should be mandating it."

Why it matters: Fauci made the comments the same day the U.S. hit its highest daily COVID-19 case count since the pandemic began.

Harris to Black voters: Casting a ballot is about honoring your ancestors

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris speaks at a "Get Out The Vote" rally at Morehouse College. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Kamala Harris appealed to Black voters in Georgia on Friday, urging them to "honor the ancestors" by casting ballots, and again calling President Trump a "racist."

Why it matters: The U.S. saw a significant decline in African-American voter turnout between 2012 and 2016, reaching its lowest point since 2000. Higher turnout among Black Americans this year could tip the balance in favor of Democrats in key battleground states, including Georgia.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Fauci: Trump hasn't been to a COVID task force meeting in months.
  2. Sports: The youth sports exodus continues — Big Ten football is back.
  3. Health: U.S. hits highest daily COVID-19 case count since pandemic began —AstraZeneca to resume vaccine trial in U.S.How to help save 130,000 lives.
  4. Retail: Santa won't greet kids at Macy's this year.
  5. World: Spain and France exceed 1 million cases.