Trump signs order on sanctions for U.S. election meddling

Donald Trump gestures after arriving in Pennsylvania to take part in a memorial event for the Sept 11 attacks

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 U.S. elections.

The former Director of the National Security Agency, retired Admiral Mike Rogers, said Tuesday that he thought President Donald Trump should have taken the opportunity to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly in Helsinki, Finland over Russia's election meddling.

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. The intelligence officials saying that they have also seen interference activity out of China, Iran, and North Korea.

"This is meant to be a very broad effort to prevent foreign manipulation of the political process", national security adviser John Bolton said during a briefing Wednesday. There is some frustration among lawmakers that with this executive order, Mr. Trump could be undercutting congressional efforts.

Trump has repeatedly called the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election a "witch hunt", and alleged without evidence that the inquiry is "rigged" against him.

Lawmakers said the executive order, which would give the president decision-making power on imposing sanctions, was insufficient.

Bolton said criticism that Trump had been too deferential to Russia or blinkered in his view of Russian election interference played "zero" role in the new action.

After the reports are complete, the Treasury and State Departments would decide on appropriate sanctions to impose on the potential actors or countries.

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.

Both lawmakers previously proposed legislation that would impose mandatory sanctions on those who interfere in USA elections, rather than directing various departments and agencies to go through a months-long process.

Trump signed the order just two months before the midterms.

In the order, the president declared a national emergency, an action required under sanctions authority, to deal with the threat of foreign meddling in US elections.

"We are doing everything we possibly can, first of all to prevent any interference with our election, and then to do a full assessment after the election", Coats said Wednesday. Those backing the legislation say that under the bill, a nation would know exactly what it would face if caught. Instead, he seemed to accept Putin's denials that Moscow sought to influence the presidential contest. He has cited US sanctions and the expulsion of alleged Russian spies from the U.S.

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