U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order calling for sanctions against foreign citizens, entities or governments found to have interfered in U.S. elections.
National Security Adviser John Bolton and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats told reporters Wednesday that the executive order is evidence the president is making election security a priority.
First the intelligence services will have 45 days to assess whether there has been an attempt to manipulate or influence a USA election.
Trump, who has sought warmer relations with Moscow, has frequently suggested he sides with Russian President Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence agencies, including during a controversial meeting between the two leaders in Helsinki in July.
As per news reports, the order would put the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in charge of determining whether meddling has taken place.
Robert Mueller, a special counsel, has been looking into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and any potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow, a claim that has been denied both by Moscow and Trump himself.
"We have seen signs of (meddling from) not just Russian Federation, but from China. from Iran and even North Korea", Coats said.
While such powers already exist in the White House and US Treasury, Coats said the new order would set up an automatic and formal review, while giving Trump flexibility on what actions to take.
US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on August 2, 2018.
Specifically, the executive order authorises appropriate and meaningful sanctions - some are full blocking sanctions, others are to be designed and calibrated in light of specific facts - against any individual, foreign entity, or country that authorises, directs, sponsors, or otherwise supports foreign interference in a U.S. election, he said. I think Department of Energy has made a clear statement of what his function there is, ' he said when asked by DailyMail.com about the high-level visit, the first since Trump's Helsinki Summit.
And that's led some to suspect that the order is motivated less by the president's earnest opposition to foreign interference in American elections, than his desire to head off legislation that would have restricted his discretion on how such interference should be punished.
"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.
The steps outlined in the executive order are "far too little, too late", and they provide no resources to help states protect their elections against future attacks, said Committee on House Administration Ranking Member Robert Brady, Committee on Homeland Security Ranking Member Bennie Thompson, and Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Elijah Cummings.
"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. He called it a necessary response to Russia's "hostile acts against America's democratic system that were created to cause division and discord within our nation". "It's more than Russian Federation here that we're looking at", Coats said. The 45-day period is based on when interference is believed to have happened and not specifically tied to Election Day.
The order, which will allow new sanctions against Russian or other foreign actors, was inked on Wednesday morning.
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We will sanction their funds in the USA financial system, and we will prosecute them in the USA criminal system", Bolton said. Similar measures would be taken against any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans , he said .
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