Published: Sun, September 16, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Trump OKs sanctions for foreigners who meddle in elections

Trump OKs sanctions for foreigners who meddle in elections

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

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said the order leaves the president with broad discretion to decide whether to impose tough sanctions.

The order will direct the intelligence community to assess if any foreign individual, entity or country has interfered in a US election, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told reporters at a conference call held at Wednesday noon.

During a press conference with the Russian leader, Trump undermined the USA intelligence community's universal conclusion that Russia had made attempts to attack the 2016 U.S. presidential election, through digital interference and other methods.

Under the order, interference will be defined, at least in part, by attempts to hack USA election infrastructure or manipulate public opinion via online propaganda.

Dan Coats, the USA director of national intelligence, said that the intelligence community had not yet spotted activity on a scale of that seen before the 2016 election, but warned that escalation was only a "keyboard click" away.

"My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me, some others, they said they think it's Russia", Trump said at a press conference with Putin. He said the United States is also anxious about the cyber activities of China, North Korea and Iran.

"We have not seen the intensity of what happened in 2016, but it's only a keyboard click away", he said.

While not strictly specified, the order more than likely targets Russian Federation.

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"Interference" is going to be very broadly defined, including not just attacks on election infrastructure, but also things like attempts to sway public opinion or leaking political information which might have an effect on voters' decisions.

The outgoing administration of Barack Obama hit Moscow with sanctions and expelled a large number of alleged Russian spies in retaliation for the interference.

"The executive order is not country-specific", Bolton said.

Fifty-five days before the November 6 midterm congressional elections, officials said they have are seeing some attempts to meddle, from Russia, China and other countries. Several senators said Wednesday that the White House order was a good first step but fell short of what's needed and could give Trump too much wiggle room.

Trump has repeatedly denounced Muller's investigating as a "witch hunt".

"There has been no evidence of a foreign power altering the outcome or vote tabulation in any United States election", Trump said in a statement, nevertheless adding that "We're going to take strong action to secure our election systems and the process".

The move comes amidst increasing realisation in the USA that the Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential elections.

The order, however, will apply beyond just Russian Federation to other foreign entities that are seeking to influence U.S. elections. Then the two departments would have 45 days to determine whether action is required, Coats told reporters. Those backing the legislation say that under the bill, a nation would know exactly what it would face if caught.

Trump administration officials said Wednesday they have not ruled out working with lawmakers on additional measures, but said they did not want to have to wait for legislation to be approved before having a chance to act.

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