EVEN Donald Trump’s intelligence chief was unaware Vladimir Putin was invited to the White House.

Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence, was informed during a live television interview that the White House had just announced Putin’s invite to Washington on Twitter.

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who was moderating the event, shared the development with Mr Coats, who appeared stunned.

“Say that again,” a shocked Mr Coats said, cupping his hand over his ear.

He took a deep breath and continued, “Okay. That’s going to be special.”

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, Mr Coats tiptoed around any potential conflict with President Trump, but was upfront about some of his misgivings, saying that he wished Mr Trump had made different statements in Helsinki after meeting Vladimir Putin.

Mr Coats, who is charged with overseeing the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies, also said that if he had been asked, he would have advised Mr Trump against meeting Mr Putin alone, with just interpreters.

“That’s not my role. That’s not my job. It is what it is,” Mr Coats said.

“I don’t know what happened in that meeting.”

Mr Coats said he was just doing his job when he quickly issued a statement on Monday after the president appeared to give credence to Russia’s denial of election interference.

In that statement, Mr Coats restated the US intelligence assessment about Russian meddling and Moscow’s “ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.”

“I just felt, at this point in time, that what we had assessed and reassessed, and reassessed … still stands and that it was important to take that stand on behalf of the intelligence community and behalf of the American people,” Mr Coats said.

Mr Coats, who has criticised Russia for years, has had to clash loudly with Mr Trump’s pro-Kremlin remarks, leaving the soft-spoken spy chief in a tight spot.

Asked how he deals with Mr Trump’s conflicting statements about Russia, Mr Coats said: “This is the job I signed up for.”

The former Republican politician was banned from travelling to Russia in 2014 for calling out its annexation of Crimea.

He has continued to raise the alarm on Russia since his appointment by Mr Trump as intelligence chief in March 2017.

He said he understood what Mr Trump was saying when he noted earlier this week that “others” could be to blame for trying to meddle in US elections because other adversaries have the capabilities to do so. But he stood firmly with the intelligence assessment, saying it’s “undeniable” that Russia has taken the lead on this kind of interference.

“Basically, they are the ones that are trying to undermine our basic values and divide with our allies,” Mr Coats said.

“They are the ones who are trying to wreak havoc over our election process.”

As with other Trump administration officials attending Aspen, Mr Coats was asked whether he ever considered resigning from what has been a volatile Trump presidency.

Mr Coats didn’t answer the question directly. He said when he has frustrating days, he reminds himself about why he agreed to accept the job and what he hoped to accomplish.

“As long as I’m able to have the ability to seek the truth and speak the truth, I’m on board,” Coats said.