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Trump orders use of sanctions to punish election interference
13 September 2018, 04:30 | Erica Roy
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.
The White House has worked to push back against accusations that Trump was not seriously committed to aggressively protecting US elections from interference, especially after his press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July.
National security adviser John Boltonsaid a new White House order on election security isn't aimed at any particular country.
With the midterm elections now two months away, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said the U.S.is not currently seeing the intensity of Russian intervention that was experienced in 2016, but he didn't rule it out.
Coats listed Iran, North Korea and China as other countries that have the capability to launch attacks on elections.
Coats said Trump's order directs intelligence agencies to conduct an assessment within 45 days after an election to report any meddling to the attorney general and Department of Homeland Security. The executive order is partly an attempt to preempt those efforts.
The move follows repeated criticism for the White House response to Russian-backed interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The intelligence community would have 45 days to make its assessment, and then the two departments would have 45 days to determine whether action is required, he told reporters on a conference call on Wednesday. In making that assessment, the DNI will consult with all of the US' multifarious intelligence agencies.
Punishments could include the blocking of assets in the United States and the State and Treasury departments could also seek more expansive sanctions, such as curtailing access to USA financial institutions.
The White House looks set to toughen up against foreign meddling in US elections.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told reporters on Wednesday that the United States is not now seeing a Russian interference campaign, but warned that "it's only a keyboard click away".
Bolton said the order was necessary to ensure a formal process and authorization for sanctions.
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.
The order, however, will apply beyond just Russian Federation to other foreign entities that are seeking to influence United States elections. Bolton noted that the scope of the order included not just attacks on election infrastructure but also "the distribution of propaganda" meant to impact the electoral process.
"Unfortunately, President Trump demonstrated in Helsinki and elsewhere that he simply can not be counted upon to stand up to Putin when it matters", Warner said. Those backing the legislation say that under the bill, a nation would know exactly what it would face if caught. He has cited USA sanctions and the expulsion of alleged Russian spies from the U.S. Russian entities have not targeted those systems to the degree they did in 2016, Coats said Wednesday.
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