Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats “can’t have it both ways,” after Coats refused to issue an unclassified statement in response to Democratic lawmakers’ questions about President Trump’s public statements that China is and has meddled in U.S. elections.
Wyden, along with Sens. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., had requested Coats issue unclassified assessments regarding Trump’s statements that China interfered in the 2016 election, and is seeking to do so in the 2018 midterm elections next month.
Rather than a public assessment, Coats sent a a classified letter to lawmakers on Wednesday.
“You can’t have it both ways. If the president is making public statements about intelligence issues, there’s no excuse for the DNI to hide under his desk,” Wyden said in a statement Wednesday. “DNI Coats has an obligation to the American people to provide a public response to our questions, particularly since this is about America’s elections and the security of our democracy.”
Wyden added that he isn’t requesting the entire letter to be declassified, but said Coats should “at the very least” provide a public response addressing “whether or not the president’s statements are consistent with the government’s intelligence assessments.”
Trump first made the remarks during a United Nations Security Council meeting in New York last month.
"Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election," Trump said.
He also claimed during an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he believed China meddled in the 2016 election.
China has rejected Trump’s comments. However, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security issued a joint statement this month claiming the agencies were “concerned” about actions from China and others to try to impact U.S. elections.
“We are concerned about ongoing campaigns by Russia, China and other foreign actors, including Iran, to undermine confidence in democratic institutions and influence public sentiment and government policies,” the statement said. “These activities also may seek to influence voter perceptions and decision making in the 2018 and 2020 U.S. elections.”