Trump authorizes sanctions over election meddling

Blanche Robertson
September 14, 2018

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to help protect USA elections from foreign interference by imposing sanctions on countries and other actors who seek to meddle.

The sanctions would target not just foreign meddling in physical election infrastructure, but propaganda and other tactics, following efforts by a Kremlin-backed outfit use Facebook and other social media to try to create divisions and affect public opinion.

Coats and other United States intelligence chiefs have said since the beginning of 2017 that Russian President Vladimir Putin presided over a concerted effort via hacking and social media manipulation to boost Trump's chances in 2016 to defeat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

"We felt it was important to demonstrate the president has taken command of this issue, that it's something that he cares deeply about", national security adviser John Bolton said on a call with reporters.

The move follows repeated criticism for the White House response to Russian-backed interference in the 2016 presidential election.

While the Obama administration privately warned Russian Federation to stop interfering on behalf of Trump, Yahoo News Chief Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff says it's fair to criticize Obama for not taking sterner action.

The order was described by a US official familiar with its drafting as "another tool in the tool kit" to deter election interference by foreign adversaries. Reuters first reported the existence of the draft executive order.

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But he said: 'We have not seen the intensity of what happened in 2016, ' when the USA intelligence community determined there was a Russian-backed effort. If they agree with the assessment, it would trigger automatic sanctions. Possible sanctions include freezing assets, limiting participation in USA financial institutions and barring American citizens from investing in companies involved in election meddling. If interference is found, the DNI would have 45 days to assess who and report it to the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, who would then have 45 days to assess whether or not to apply sanctions.

A key State Department official praised the executive order as a good start. "The United States can and must do more", they said in a statement. "The way we have been doing it [until now] is fingernail-pulling". "So I think this order is a further demonstration of that", he added.

Still, Kanuck said the executive order alone is likely not enough. Those backing the legislation say that under the bill, a nation would know exactly what it would face if caught. "I doubt it will completely change the incentive-cost-benefit analysis of the other side".

Mr. Coats said intelligence agencies were working around the clock to protect the midterm elections.

"There is no question that protecting our elections from foreign interference is one of the most pressing issues facing our country today", Rubio and Van Hollen said in a joint statement Wednesday.

The executive order was also panned by some lawmakers at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Russian interference Tuesday afternoon. Sen. That legislation is focused against Russian Federation, as compared with the more ecumenical order announced by the White House.

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