President Donald Trump's former intelligence chief issued a thinly veiled rebuke of his conspiracy theories and attacks on the election process.
The president and attorney general have been questioning the integrity of mail-in voting, while the Department of Homeland Security has downplayed threats from foreign election interference -- and former director of national intelligence Dan Coats expressed his alarm in a new op-ed for the New York Times.
"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; that our public discourse has been perverted by the news media and social networks riddled with prejudice, lies and ill will; that judicial institutions, law enforcement and even national security have been twisted, misused and misdirected to create anxiety and conflict, not justice and social peace," Coats wrote.
"If those are the results of this tumultuous election year, we are lost, no matter which candidate wins," he added.
"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."
Coats urged Congress to establish a "supremely high-level bipartisan and nonpartisan commission to oversee the election," pledged by oath to set aside partisan concerns to protect the election's integrity.
"Both presidential candidates should be called upon to make such personal commitments of their own," Coats wrote.
"If we fail to take every conceivable effort to ensure the integrity of our election, the winners will not be Donald Trump or Joe Biden, Republicans or Democrats. The only winners will be Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Ali Khamenei. No one who supports a healthy democracy could want that.