Saturday, 17 November, 2018

Trump signs order to punish foreign meddlers in United States votes

Trump to issue order allowing sanctions on foreigners meddling in U.S. elections Trump to target election meddling with new sanctions order
Faye Gross | 13 September, 2018, 04:30

President Trump plans to sign an executive order as soon as Wednesday that will slap sanctions on any foreign companies or people who interfere in USA elections, based on intelligence agency findings, two sources told Reuters.

In the works for months, the order will allow the director of National Intelligence, with input from other intelligence agencies, to assess and identify foreign actors responsible for election meddling, and direct the Treasury Department to apply sanctions. The intelligence officials saying that they have also seen interference activity out of China, Iran, and North Korea.

Both Republicans and Democrats criticized the move as insufficient, however.

Sanctions could include freezing assets, restricting foreign exchange transactions, limiting access to USA financial institutions, and prohibiting United States citizens from investing in companies involved, said White House national security adviser John Bolton.

Congressional pressure for tougher federal defenses against foreign election interference grew following Trump's July 16 summit and news conference with Putin, when Trump avoided publicly confronting the Russian leader about Moscow's efforts to influence the election.

Trump's decision coincides with intelligence agencies, military and law enforcement preparing to defend the November 6 congressional elections from predicted foreign attacks even as Trump derides a special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. The information would be provided to the Justice and Homeland Security departments, and then based on their assessment of the validity and impact, trigger automatic sanctions, USA director of national intelligence Dan Coats said.

The order instructs the intelligence community to monitor and report on attempts to disrupt election infrastructure as well as propaganda.

"We felt it was important to demonstrate the president has taken command of this issue, that it's something he cares deeply about - that the integrity of our elections and our constitutional process are a high priority to him", Bolton said.

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Intelligence agencies would have 45 days to make an assessment.

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 US financial institutions.

Bolton said the order was necessary to ensure a formal process and authorisation for sanctions, but he said he was in talks with lawmakers about legislation as well.

The White House looks set to toughen up against foreign meddling in USA elections.

Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., the vice-chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also criticized the executive order, which he said puts too much power in the hands of a president who has previously failed to demand accountability from Russian Federation on the issue.

Trump signed the order just two months before the midterms.

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 sanctions themselves range from blocked assets, export licenses, access to banking and lending, credit transfers, or US investors, according to Bolton.

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