President-elect Donald Trump officially nominated a new director of national intelligence Saturday while continuing to emphasize claims that Russian interference in last year's presidential election did not affect the outcome.
"Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results," Trump tweeted a day after receiving a briefing from U.S. intelligence officials. "Voting machines not touched!"
Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results. Voting machines not touched!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2017
Trump also confirmed he is nominating Dan Coats to be his new director of national intelligence, saying the retired Indiana senator "has clearly demonstrated the deep subject matter expertise and sound judgment required to lead our intelligence community."
If confirmed by his former colleagues in the Senate, Coats "will provide unwavering leadership that the entire intelligence community can respect, and will spearhead my administration’s ceaseless vigilance against those who seek to do us harm," Trump said.
In accepting the nomination, Coats said "a robust and responsible intelligence infrastructure is essential to our homeland security."
As the Coats announcement went out, Trump tweeted about the newly released intelligence report that the Russians — including President Vladimir Putin — tried to sway the American election by hacking Democrats close to presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
In one tweet, the president-elect suggested Democrats were pushing the Russia story to explain away their loss. "Only reason the hacking of the poorly defended DNC is discussed is that the loss by the Dems was so big that they are totally embarrassed!" Trump said.
Only reason the hacking of the poorly defended DNC is discussed is that the loss by the Dems was so big that they are totally embarrassed!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2017
Clinton won the popular vote overall, but Trump won more states and captured the Electoral College.
Coats would replace current Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, one of the officials who briefed the president-elect Friday afternoon at Trump Tower.
In statements after that briefing, Trump suggested the Russians could have been involved in hacking the Democrats, but did not fully embrace the intelligence community's conclusions about a Russian plot to influence the election.
Claiming that Russia, China, and other countries and groups are trying to cyberattack the United States — "including the Democratic National Committee" — Trump said in a written statement that "there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines."
He added, "there were attempts to hack the Republican National Committee, but the RNC had strong hacking defenses and the hackers were unsuccessful."
While he has criticized aspects of the Russia investigation, Trump said in his statement that "I have tremendous respect for the work and service done by the men and women of this (intelligence) community to our great nation."
Trump also vowed new plans to counter cyberattacks once he takes office Jan. 20.
Saying all Americans need to "aggressively combat and stop cyberattacks," Trump pledged to appoint a team to develop a new defense plan.
"The methods, tools and tactics we use to keep America safe should not be a public discussion that will benefit those who seek to do us harm," the president-elect said. "Two weeks from today I will take the oath of office and America’s safety and security will be my number one priority.”