White House readies sanctions on foreign nations for election meddling

Yahoo News

US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that initiates actions, including sanctions, against foreign entities that meddle or even attempt to interfere in American elections, the White House said.

Sanctions such as freezing assets, restricting foreign exchange transactions and blocking access to USA financial institutions will be triggered by incursions on election systems, political parties and candidates, or for circulating propaganda, said National Security Adviser John R. Bolton.

And after a closed-door meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July, Trump said he believed Putin when he denied that Russia did not try to sway the 2016 election, despite the USA intelligence community's public findings implicating the Kremlin.

But in a statement late Wednesday, the president said his executive order makes clear the United States "will not tolerate any form of foreign meddling in our elections".

National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said the directive was in response to alleged Kremlin interference in the 2016 presidential election. The intelligence officials saying that they have also seen interference activity out of China, Iran, and North Korea.

Coates said that the administration acknowledges that there was interference in the 2016 election, and "we've learned our lessons".

National Security Adviser John Bolton, meanwhile, denied on Wednesday that the criticism had influenced the president's decision to take measures to dissuade foreign powers from interfering in the races for both houses of Congress. Following those reports, the Treasury and State Departments can decide on appropriate and additional sanctions to impose.

"I think his actions speak for themselves", Bolton said.

Bolton was joined on the call by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who outlined how the process of identifying interference and then imposing sanctions will work. "It's more than Russian Federation here that we're looking at", Coats said.

"If we are going to actually deter Russian Federation and others from interfering in our elections in the future, we need to spell out strong, clear consequences, without ambiguity", Warner added.

But aides have said that Trump's anger at what he views as a questioning of his surprise election victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton colors his view of the threat to future elections, and slowed down the administration's planning for this year's congressional election.

The lawmakers said Trump's executive order does not change the need for legislation. He said he was in talks with lawmakers about possible legislation.

Election interference will be defined in the order as hacking attempts against "election infrastructure", and efforts to sway public opinion through coordinated digital propaganda or systematic leaks of private political information.

"This clearly is a process put in place to try to assure that we are doing every possible thing we can, first of all, to prevent any interference with our elections, to report on anything we see between now and the election, but then to do a full assessment after the election to assure the American people just exactly what may have happened or may not have happened", Coats summarized.

In the discussion on Tuesday evening, Rogers also recounted his conversations with Trump about Russia's continued attempts to disrupt the U.S. electoral system through cyber means in 2016 and beyond. Russian entities have not targeted those systems to the degree they did in 2016, Coats said Wednesday.

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