Dem slams intel chief over classified response on Trump's Chinese election meddling claims

Dem slams intel chief over classified response on Trump's Chinese election meddling claims
© Greg Nash

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Trump issues order to bring transparency to health care prices | Fight over billions in ObamaCare payments heads to Supreme Court Senate set to bypass Iran fight amid growing tensions Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record MORE (D-Ore.) went after Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump targets Iran with new sanctions CNN's Jake Tapper repeatedly presses Pence on whether he thinks climate change is a threat Hillicon Valley: Tim Cook visits White House | House hearing grapples with deepfake threat | Bill, Melinda Gates launch lobbying group | Tech turns to K-Street in antitrust fight | Lawsuit poses major threat to T-Mobile, Sprint merger MORE on Wednesday after Coats delivered an entirely classified response when asked for evidence on President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE’s claims that China is interfering in the midterm elections.

Wyden, along with fellow Democratic Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisThe Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations Biden to debate for first time as front-runner Rules for first Democratic primary debates announced MORE (Calif.) and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichOvernight Energy: Democrats ask if EPA chief misled on vehicle emissions | Dem senators want NBC debate focused on climate change | 2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils T climate plan Democratic senators want NBC primary debate to focus on climate change Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' MORE (N.M.), have sent two letters to Coats over the past month requesting that he provide intelligence backing up Trump’s claims of Chinese election meddling.

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Coats responded to the senators on Wednesday, but the letter was fully classified.

Wyden said in a statement that 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.”

“If the president is making public statements about intelligence issues, there's no excuse for the DNI to hide under his desk,” the senator said.

“I'm not asking for every word of the letter to be declassified,” Wyden continued. “But at the very least, the DNI should say publicly whether or not the president's statements are consistent with the government's intelligence assessments.”

The Hill has reached out to the Office of the Director for National Intelligence (ODNI) for comment.

Wyden, Harris and Heinrich first sent a letter to the intelligence chief on Oct. 4 asking that he publicly say whether Trump’s claims of Chinese election interference are in line with U.S. intelligence and to “release as much relevant detail and supporting intelligence as possible.”

The same group of senators sent a second letter last week, asking if Trump’s assertion during an interview with “60 Minutes” that China “meddled” in the 2016 election was in line with the intelligence community’s findings.

Trump first claimed without evidence last month that China was interfering in the 2018 midterms, saying it was "because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade." He has since repeated the claim.

China has disputed the allegation.

Other officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Five memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House Trump admin program sends asylum-seekers to await claims in Mexico, despite fears of violence: report MORE, have since said that there is no evidence of a foreign adversary trying to interfere with U.S. election infrastructure.

Still, ODNI, the FBI and the departments of Homeland Security and Justice said in a joint statement earlier this month that there are "ongoing" influence campaigns by countries like China, Russia and Iran ahead of the midterm elections.