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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:

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.
  • 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."  

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Biden freezes U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official tells Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
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Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Collective.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).

DHS warns of "heightened threat" because of domestic extremism

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The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday issued an advisory warning of a "heightened threat environment" in the U.S. because of "ideologically-motivated violent extremists."

Why it matters: DHS believes the threat of violence will persist for "weeks" following President Biden's inauguration. The extremists include those who opposed the presidential transition, people spurred by "grievances fueled by false narratives" and "anger over COVID-19 restrictions ... and police use of force[.]"