President Donald Trump’s former director of national intelligence called on Congress to create a commission to “oversee the election,” an especially notable proposal from a former senior administration official that comes as the President continues to sow doubt about the integrity of the upcoming contest.
Former DNI Dan Coats outlined the proposed oversight commission in an opinion piece published Thursday in The New York Times in which he wrote that “our democracy’s enemies, foreign and domestic, want us to concede in advance that our voting systems are faulty or fraudulent; that sinister conspiracies have distorted the political will of the people,” among other things. As a result, Coats wrote, the “most urgent task American leaders face is to ensure that the election’s results are accepted as legitimate.”
Coats said Congress should “create a supremely high-level bipartisan and nonpartisan commission to oversee the election. This commission would not circumvent existing electoral reporting systems or those that tabulate, evaluate or certify the results. But it would monitor those mechanisms 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.”
Though Coats doesn’t take direct aim at Trump in the op-ed, it nonetheless presents a contrast with views espoused by his former boss, who has frequently made unproven claims that American elections are rife with voter fraud, stoking fears that the results might not be recognized as valid by millions of Americans.
Earlier this month, Trump launched a new baseless accusation about how he believes Democrats will attempt to commit fraud during the presidential election, telling North Carolina rallygoers to act as poll watchers to prevent fraud at voting locations. He has also claimed, without evidence, that he lost the popular vote in 2016 due to voter fraud.
Coats wrote that the proposed commission “would be responsible for monitoring those forces that seek to harm our electoral system through interference, fraud, disinformation or other distortions” adding that any illegal activity would be “referred to appropriate law enforcement agencies and national security entities.”
The commission’s members, Coats said, would be comprised of both Democrats and Republicans 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,” Coats wrote.
But top Republican senators on Thursday dismissed their former colleague’s call to establish such a commission.
Asked if he backs Coats’ recommendation, Senate Rules Chairman Roy Blunt told CNN: “No.”
“I love Dan Coats, I have great respect for him. I don’t think that’s right,” said Blunt, a member of Senate GOP leadership whose committee oversees election matters. “I think the states are well prepared to deal with this and are in much better shape from an election security perspective than they were in 2016.”
The Missouri Republican continued, “One, I don’t think there will be a commission, and two, I don’t think we need a commission.”
Other Republicans were uncertain how such a plan would work – and said it would be far too difficult to implement before November.
“We couldn’t do that before this election, I would imagine,” said Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican and member of his party’s leadership team. He suggested such an idea could be something to look at for future elections. “It might not be a bad idea to have a neutral non-partisan body.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, who runs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he didn’t read the details of Coats’ plan. But the Florida Republican added: “One of the strengths of our system is that elections are conducted across thousands of counties, and it makes it difficult to mess with it.”
This story has been updated with reaction from GOP senators.
CNN’s Alex Marquardt, Maegan Vazquez and Manu Raju contributed to this report.