Coats said at his February confirmation hearing that Russia "definitely did try to influence campaign"
Indiana Republican served in US Senate from 1989 to 1999 and again from 2011 to 2017
Less than two months into his tenure as Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats is being thrust into the public spotlight – asked to testify before Congress amid an investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 election.
It is a potentially precarious situation for the former US lawmaker and diplomat who is now serving as President Donald Trump’s principal adviser on intelligence matters and head of US intelligence efforts.
Confirmed to his new post in March, Coats is now thrust into the spotlight of an investigation looking into possible collusion between a foreign power and members of the campaign that helped elect the man who picked him for the post.
Coats stated during his confirmation hearing in February that Russia “definitely did try to influence campaign,” a conclusion that was unanimously accepted by intelligence officials but one that could put him at odds with a White House that has consistently dismissed the idea.
To complicate matters further, multiple current and former US officials have confirmed to CNN that Trump asked Coats to publicly deny evidence of cooperation between his campaign and Russia during the 2016 election after then-FBI Director James Comey revealed in March that the bureau had launched a probe into alleged collusion.
Coats was uncomfortable with the nature of the President’s request and refused to comply, the sources with knowledge of the situation told CNN.
The account was first reported in The Washington Post.
Coats declined to comment on the report when asked about it by lawmakers on Tuesday but did say that politicizing intelligence was inappropriate – and that he’d made that position clear to the Trump administration.
“I made clear in my confirmation hearing for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, my role and the role of the director of national intelligence is to provide intelligence information relevant to policy makers so they can base their judgments on that,” Coats said during Tuesday’s hearing. “Any political shaping of that presentation for intelligence would not be appropriate. I have made my position clear on that to this administration and I intend to maintain that position.”
During his confirmation hearing earlier this year, Coats also stressed the importance of presenting intelligence without any sort of partisan spin, a mentality that has drawn praise from some of his former Congressional colleagues.
Coats, a Republican from Indiana, previously served in the US Senate from 1989 until 1999 before becoming the US ambassador to Germany in the first term of President George W. Bush’s administration. He then returned to the Senate after winning election in 2010 and retired this past January after deciding not to seek re-election last year.
As a senator, Coats served on the Senate intelligence and armed services committees.
During his confirmation hearing, Coats drew praise from Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, who said he was “impressed” with his Republican colleague.
“He’s not a fierce partisan,” the Maine senator told CNN in January. “He understands the intelligence community, as you know he was a US ambassador to Germany so he has that experience in foreign policy, and he’s a very amiable, easy-to-work-with person.”