Trump signs order for election-meddling sanctions against foreigners
Author: Washington Examiner - September 12, 2018 - Updated: September 27, 2018
By Steven Nelson, Washington Examiner
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday creating a framework for imposing sanctions on foreigners who seek to influence U.S. elections.
“This is intended to be a very broad effort to prevent foreign manipulation of the political process,” national security adviser John Bolton told reporters on a conference call.
The executive order allows sanctions without congressional action against foreign nations, organizations, and individuals seeking to influence elections.
“It is not limited to election infrastructure, it relates to much broader efforts at propaganda and other ways that can interfere with the political process,” Bolton said.
Trump has drawn widespread criticism for not taking threats to the U.S. electoral system seriously enough, particularly Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race.
Under the order, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence will have 45 days to investigate incidents of foreign intervention, with the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security then having 45 days to confirm findings.
Bolton said the 90-day investigatory process can be expedited.
The order requires the State Department and the Treasury Department to formulate sanctions that would be imposed against foreigners or foreign nations, with possible calibration based on the severity of offenses.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said the framework will serve as deterrence, and that “what we see is ongoing capabilities and attempts” at influence U.S. politics, including from China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. He did not elaborate or clarify that point.
“This executive order authorizes development and application of sanctions against any individual, any entity or country that authorizes, directs, sponsors, or otherwise supports interference in a U.S. election. So it’s pretty broad,” Coats said.
Bolton said that the executive order had “zero” to do with a public perception that Trump is overly deferential to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is accused of interfering in the 2016 election to help Trump win.
If the framework is utilized, Bolton said the public probably won’t know until sanctions are imposed.
“A lot of this information comes from very sensitive sources and methods. This isn’t a public rulemaking process,” he said.
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. Trump did not directly answer the question. Instead, he delivered a rambling response, including demands for investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server and his description of Putin’s “extremely strong and powerful” denial of meddling. That drew outrage from both Republican and Democrats.
Trump has pushed back, saying that no other American president has been as tough on Russia. He has cited U.S. sanctions and the expulsion of alleged Russian spies from the U.S.
The Associated Press contributed.