Many in the White House did not immediately see fault in Sanders’ comments that the West Wing was merely considering the Kremlin offer, but it provided fresh tinder for the bipartisan firestorm.
As each White House effort to clean up the situation failed to stem the growing bipartisan backlash, Trump’s mood worsened, according to confidants. He groused about his staff for not better managing the fallout. He was angry at the two American reporters, including one from The Associated Press, who asked questions at the Helsinki news conference. And he seethed at the lack of support he believed he received from congressional Republicans.
Also a target of the president’s ire was Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who issued a rare statement rebutting the president’s Monday comments. But it was Coats’ televised interview Thursday at a security conference in Aspen, Colo., that set off the president anew, as the intelligence director questioned the wisdom of the Putin meeting and said he had hoped Trump wouldn’t meet alone with the Russian leader.
It all left White House staffers in a fresh state of resignation about their jobs.