Without consulting the White House, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats decided to reassert the intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow interfered in the 2016 election Monday, publicly breaking with President Donald Trump, who earlier had expressed doubts about that finding while standing alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Coats faced “a choice” after Trump issued a stunning rebuke of the US intelligence community, saying he doesn’t “see any reason why” Russia would be responsible for interfering in the 2016 election — touting Putin’s vigorous denial then pivoting to complaints about the Democratic National Committee’s server and missing emails from Hillary Clinton’s personal account. Rather than staying quiet, Coats opted to issue a strongly worded statement backing the intelligence assessment that Russia did, in fact, interfere in the election. He also reaffirmed his commitment to “provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.”
A senior intelligence official told CNN that it was Coats’ decision to release the statement following internal discussions Monday morning and that it was not cleared with the White House beforehand.
“The role of the Intelligence Community is to provide the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the President and policymakers. We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security,” the statement said.