Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Dan Coats, who served as President Trump's director of national intelligence, wrote in a New York Times op-ed published Thursday that "every conceivable effort" must be taken to safeguard November's election from claims of illegitimacy.

Why it matters: President Trump has repeatedly baselessly suggested that increased mail-in voting could lead to widespread voter fraud, and intelligence officials warn that foreign actors, including Russia, will continue to try to influence this year's election.

  • Coats called the election's legitimacy "the essential linchpin of our entire political culture."
  • He, who also served multiple terms as a Republican senator from Indiana, called for Congress to create a "supremely high-level bipartisan and nonpartisan commission" tasked with overseeing the election.
  • He said it should "monitor [existing electoral] mechanisms and confirm for the public that the laws and regulations governing them have been scrupulously and expeditiously followed ... without political prejudice and without regard to political interests of either party."

The big picture: While serving as DNI, Coats repeatedly affirmed the intelligence community's consensus that Russia had interfered in the 2016 elections, despite pushback from Trump.

What he's saying: "Our democracy’s enemies, foreign and domestic, want us to concede in advance that our voting systems are faulty or fraudulent," Coats wrote, also citing the discourse around conspiracy theories, the news media and social media.

  • "If those are the results of this tumultuous election year, we are lost, no matter which candidate wins. No American, and certainly no American leader, should want such an outcome."
  • "Total destruction and sowing salt in the earth of American democracy is a catastrophe well beyond simple defeat and a poison for generations. An electoral victory on these terms would be no victory at all. The judgment of history, reflecting on the death of enlightened democracy, would be harsh."

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