WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump’s nominee for the top U.S. intelligence post, the director of national intelligence, says he views Russia’s actions on the international stage with "grave concern."
The comments by former Senator Dan Coats at a February 28 confirmation hearing come amid the mounting fallout over what U.S. intelligence officials have called a Moscow-directed hacking and public-opinion-manipulation campaign aimed at influencing the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.
His testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee also comes as Trump continues to talk about the potential benefits of improved ties with Russia, including on issues like counterterrorism.
Several members of Trump's cabinet, however, have voiced stern views on Russia, including on the need to maintain sanctions targeting Moscow for its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula -- a position the U.S. administration has publicly backed.
"Russia's assertiveness in global affairs is something I look upon with grave concern, which we need to address with eyes wide open and a healthy degree of skepticism," Coats told the committee.
Coats also vowed to support a thorough investigation into alleged Russian interference in the presidential election. U.S. intelligence accuses the Kremlin of meddling in order to help Trump win, an allegation Moscow denies.
That assessment was made public in January by the Office of the Director of Intelligence, which Coats would lead if he is confirmed.
"I think this is something that needs to be investigated and addressed," Coats said.
Trump initially expressed skepticism about Russia’s alleged involvement but later said Moscow was likely behind the cyberattacks targeting the campaign of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
He says, however, that the hacking had no impact on the outcome of the election.