WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) released the following statement after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer today blatantly mischaracterized Senator Coons’ previous comments on Fox News Sunday about potential collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign. Spicer misleadingly quoted only a select portion of Senator Coons’ previous statements, in which Sen. Coons said “I have no evidence of collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Senator Coons’ full quote, which Spicer failed to provide, is: “I have no hard evidence of collusion. I think what hard evidence there may be will be discovered either through a full release of President Trump's financial interests and concerns and taxes, or the intercepts that I believe our intelligence community and FBI have of conversations between and among Russian officials, and that's why I think it's important for us to get to the bottom of this so that we're not still talking about this as an unresolved issue where we don't know the answer months from now.”
“I’m disappointed that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer today mischaracterized comments I made earlier this month in his attempt to defend President Trump against allegations of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. For Mr. Spicer’s sake, let me be clear once again: Though I have not seen specific evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, there is quite a bit of circumstantial evidence that suggests collusion may have occurred, including confirmation just this morning that the FBI is investigating potential collusion between the campaign and Russian officials.
“From the firings of Campaign Manager Paul Manafort and National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn over troubling ties to Russia to the President’s refusal to release his tax returns and his unfounded accusation that he was “wire tapped” by President Obama, President Trump and his team have refused every opportunity to allay concerns of inappropriate Russian ties. Indeed, they have fostered those concerns, knowingly or not.
“I have worked earnestly to ensure that Congress investigates these concerns in an honest, thorough, and most importantly, bipartisan way. That is how I will continue to approach this issue. I also believe strongly that the FBI and both the House and Senate Intelligence Committee investigations must have access to all evidence. The American people deserve to know the truth about whether or not senior members of the president’s campaign collaborated with Russian hacking of our 2016 election.
“Mr. Spicer would do well to quote me accurately and fully in the future.”
Below is a full transcript of Senator Coons’ interview, from Sunday March 5, which Spicer referenced:
Senator Coons on President Trump's wiretap allegations: Well, these are remarkable allegations. I think another attempt by President Trump to change the subject. But this deserves full investigation. And the larger point I think I will agree with Senator Cotton on is that it's in the best interest of our country for us to move forward promptly and get to the bottom of all of this. I believe that no president should ever directly order an intercept or a wiretap on an American citizen - that is not what our system provides. You have to go in front of a judge and get a warrant in order to conduct a wiretap. So one of two things has happened here: either President Trump has inappropriately released classified information and was himself the subject of a Court ordered wiretap, or, and I think this a very remote possibility, there was some inappropriate actions by the previous administration. In either case, it doesn't help our country for this to all be worked out on Twitter. It ought to be worked out in a full, fair, prompt and thorough investigation whether by the Senate Intelligence Committee if they can get to the bottom of this or by a special prosecutor.
Senator Coons on whether these allegations might just be false: Yes that is right, of course. It's quite possible it is just not true and the President offered no evidence or backing for his outlandish claims.
Senator Coons on his previous comments regarding possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians: What I was trying to make clear and I appreciate a chance to restate this is that I don't have and I don't know of any conclusive proof one way or the other about whether there was collusion between senior levels of the Trump campaign and Russian officials. But I believe that our intelligence community, which is the most sophisticated in the world, has intercepts, has raw intelligence and it's important that the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting an investigation be given access to those intercepts, to transcripts of those intercepts so that they can get to the bottom of this. The American people want us to move forward, they want us to work together in Washington, and it is important for us to remember that the Russians are our adversaries. Republicans and Democrats, we have different political agendas, different political views, but we can and should work together to make sure that what intelligence there is is gotten access to by the Intelligence Committee, and if they're stonewalled or blocked, that there is a special prosecutor appointed. That's the point I was trying to make.
Senator Coons on his previous statement on MSNBC: Well, to be clear, what I was trying to encourage is that the Intelligence Committee be given access to the raw intelligence. I've been told now that this is going to happen this coming week and I think that is positive and productive. Last week on the floor of the Senate, I joined Republican Senator Marco Rubio in a joint speech to talk about Russian interference, Russia as our adversary, and the importance of us working together. And at the end of the speech, Senator Rubio said 'I won't be part of a witch hunt and I won't be part of a cover-up.' So, to the extent those comments that you just replayed might in some way be misinterpreted as leading to a sort of hyperventilating attitude here in the Senate about this, I apologize for that. That's not what I was trying to do. What I was trying to do and I think is important is to draw the American people to what joins us in common, which is the need for us to get to the bottom of this, to get access to what intelligence there is. I am confident that intelligence exists that is relevant to this question. Not that says 'there is collusion and proof of it.' That's not what I was trying to say. But last week, there were senior Republicans and President Trump in previous saying there is nothing here, there is nothing to look at. And this was just after Senator Sessions was revealed to have either misspoken or misrepresented his meetings with the Russian ambassador. I think it is in all of our interest for this to be investigated fully, fairly and promptly and that what intelligence exists, I am confident that such intelligence exists, be made available to the Intelligence Committee.
Senator Coons on potential collusion between the 'Trump world' and Russians to interfere in the presidential campaign: I have no hard evidence of collusion. I think what hard evidence there may be will be discovered either through a full release of President Trump's financial interests and concerns and taxes, or the intercepts that I believe our intelligence community and FBI have of conversations between an among Russian officials, and that's why I think it's important for us to get to the bottom of this so that we're not still talking about this as an unresolved issue where we don't know the answer months from now.
Senator Coons on how this ongoing investigation could impact the Trump administration: Well, to be clear, I'm not the person who forced or coerced in any way Senator Sessions to answer incorrectly or falsely in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee----
Senator Coons on whether this investigation is purposefully trying to prohibit the Trump administration from being productive: That's not my goal. I recently met with the new Commerce Secretary just on Thursday to sit down with him and say I'm on the relevant subcommittee that appropriates the Commerce Department's funding, I'd like to work with you on manufacturing policy, I think we can do things to get back to focusing on growing our economy and growing manufacturing jobs. You know me and I think you'd recognize that I'm someone who is willing to work across the aisle. My goal here is to make sure we defend our democracy. It's outrageous to suggest that we shouldn't investigate thoroughly and fully what are credible allegations of Russian interference in our election.
Senator Coons on whether he believes that Senator Sessions lied to the Judiciary Committee: Well, Senator Sessions certainly misspoke when he said 'I did not have communications with the Russians.' And whether or not that is a willful misrepresentation, a lie, is something I think we should investigate. I think the Attorney General ought to come back to the Judiciary Committee and answer questions so we can clear the air and get to the bottom of this. That is the only way we can move forward with confidence in our system. I do think this is a distraction from governing, but it is an important distraction, one that deserves our attention in a measured and bipartisan way, because Russia did interfere with our election and why they interfered and what the consequences are is going to matter to the defense of our democracy going forward.