Trump signs order to punish foreign meddlers in United States votes

Sergio Conner
September 12, 2018

WASHINGTON-In a call with journalists today, National Security Advisor John Bolton and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates outlined an executive order just signed by President Donald Trump that would result in automatic sanctions against any foreign entities found to have attempted to interfere in United States elections.

Bolton had previously warned that there were signs of election meddling from China, North Korea, and Iran, though he offered no specific evidence. The order declares a national emergency, Bolton said, and requires DNI to make regular assessments of activities targeting the U.S. electoral process, reporting findings to the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security.

The move comes amidst increasing realisation in the USA that the Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential elections. The text of the order has not yet been released.

Coats says the not now seeing the intensity of Russian intervention that was experienced in 2016, but didn't rule it out.

At their summit in Helsinki, Trump downplayed USA intelligence assessments that Russian Federation was responsible for cyberattacks on Democrats ahead of the 2016 election.

The executive order addresses not only interference with campaign and election infrastructure, but also propaganda efforts. The order, according to administration officials, is broad in terms of who and what can be sanctioned.

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Congress passed a Russian Federation sanctions bill more than a year ago.

Congress is also considering several pieces of legislation that would punish foreign countries for interfering in US elections.

Under the order, the intelligence community would have 45 days to determine whether meddling occurred.

As The Washington Post first reported in August, the order appears to be an effort to stave off bipartisan legislation that would mandate tough federal action.

The order sets up a 90-day time frame for assessing reports of any kind of interference by foreign individuals and companies, and then deciding on the appropriate sanctions, which include freezing assets, banning business dealings with Americans and locking the actors out of the U.S. financial system.

The sanctions themselves range from blocked assets, export licenses, access to banking and lending, credit transfers, or US investors, according to Bolton. Instead, it depends on implementation and is structured a bit like the DETER bill (Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines Act of 2018) which was introduced by the Senators Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, earlier this year.

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