Trump Executive Order Would Punish Foreigners Linked To Election Interference

Leroy Wright
September 13, 2018

President Trump plans to sign an executive order as soon as Wednesday that will slap sanctions on any foreign companies or people who interfere in USA elections, based on intelligence agency findings, two sources told Reuters.

The executive action came less than two months before the November 6 midterm elections, and two years after US authorities say Russian Federation meddled in the presidential race won by Trump.

The order would direct intelligence agencies to assess whether any individuals or entities interfered in a US election, turn that information over to the Justice and Homeland Security departments, and then - based on their assessment of the validity and impact of that intelligence - trigger automatic sanctions, said US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

While Coates said that "we have not seen the intensity of activity from 2016", the intelligence community has seen signs that there are efforts underway by a number of actors to manipulate the political process this year. Coats did not tell reporters what evidence, if any, the intelligence community has seen of Russian hacking this year, but mentioned that he had seen "capability and attempts" from Iran, China, and North Korea as well.

Both Republicans and Democrats criticized the move as insufficient, however.

Trump's national security adviser John Bolton denied that harsh reaction to Trump's Helsinki meeting with Putin was partly what spurred the decision to sign the new order. The executive order is partly an attempt to preempt those efforts.

At a July 16 news conference in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump was asked if he would denounce what happened in 2016 and warn Putin never to do it again.

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Sanction targets could include individual people or entire companies accused of interfering in USA elections by cyber attacks or other means, a US official told Reuters.

Intelligence agencies would have 45 days to make an assessment. It also lays out how the Treasury and State departments will recommend what sanctions to impose.

The White House looks set to toughen up against foreign meddling in US elections.

In a joint statement, senators Chris Van Hollen and Marco Rubio - who co-sponsored legislation that would mandate heavy sanctions for election meddling - seconded Warner's assessment. "Unfortunately, President Trump demonstrated in Helsinki and elsewhere that he simply can not be counted upon to stand up to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin when it matters", said Warner, who is sponsoring the bill.

Congress has been purposefully left out of the executive order drafting process, the official said, because the administration wants to preempt legislation being considered in the House and Senate that addresses similar issues.

Trump signed the bill into law only after Congress passed it with huge majorities. "And if we don't do something, they (the Russians) are not going to stop".

At the same time, outside experts have warned for more than a year that Russian efforts to manipulate US voters through misleading social media postings are likely to have grown more sophisticated and harder to detect.

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