President Trump’s former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats wants Congress to create a bipartisan commission to oversee the upcoming U.S. election as fears mount that an international actor could again interfere in the high-stakes race.
In an opinion piece published by The New York Times just 47 days ahead of the Nov. 3 election, Mr. Coats said the suggested commission would monitor electoral systems and “confirm for the public that the laws and regulations governing them have been scrupulously and expeditiously followed — or that violations have been exposed and dealt with — without political prejudice and without regard to political interests of either party.”
The U.S. intelligence community assessed leading up to the 2016 presidential election that Russia was interfering in the race and accordingly notified congressional leaders.
Americans were not told of the assessment until early 2017, however, weeks before Mr. Trump took office as a result of defeating Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the race.
New policies enacted during the Trump administration have subsequently made it easier for the U.S to conduct offensive cyberattacks against foreign adversaries such as Russia.
“Our democracy’s enemies, foreign and domestic, want us to concede in advance that our voting systems are faulty or fraudulent,” Mr. Coats wrote, “… that judicial institutions, law enforcement and even national security have been twisted, misused and misdirected to create anxiety and conflict, not justice and social peace.”
He suggested that the commission’s members should be strictly nonpartisan and “could include congressional leaders, current and former governors, ‘elder statespersons,’ former national security leaders,” and others, including former Supreme Court justices and leaders in the private sector.”
“They would accept as a personal moral responsibility to put the integrity and fairness of the election process above everything else, making public reassurance their goal,” Mr. Coats wrote.
His piece comes on the heels of unproven accusations made by Mr. Trump, who suggested earlier this month that Democrats may attempt to commit fraud during the presidential election.
“Gotta be careful with those ballots. Watch those ballots. I don’t like it. You know, you have a Democrat governor, you have all these Democrats watching that stuff. I don’t like it,” Mr. Trump said during a rally in North Carolina.
Without mentioning the president by name, Mr. Coats hinted at Mr. Trump’s prior claims and said that “the most urgent task American leaders face is to ensure that the election’s results are accepted as legitimate. Electoral legitimacy is the essential linchpin of our entire political culture. We should see the challenge clearly in advance and take immediate action to respond.”
He warned that “if we fail to take every conceivable effort to ensure the integrity of our election, the winners will not be Donald Trump or Joe Biden, Republicans or Democrats. The only winners will be Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Ali Khamenei. No one who supports a healthy democracy could want that.”
Earlier this week, current DNI John Ratcliffe vowed to “continue to provide Congressional leadership and the intelligence oversight committees appropriate updates to keep Congress fully and currently informed.”
“In order to protect sources and methods, the IC will not provide all-member briefings, but we will work to provide appropriate updates primarily through written finished intelligence products.”
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