Trump Executive Order Would Punish Foreigners Linked To Election Interference

President Donald Trump talks about Hurricane Florence following a briefing in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington Tuesday Sept. 11 2018

Trump Executive Order Would Punish Foreigners Linked To Election Interference

President Donald Trump signed a sweeping executive order Wednesday authorizing US sanctions on any foreign individual or country that tries to interfere in USA elections.

The executive order in this regard is likely to be signed by Trump as early as Wednesday.

The executive order "recognises the threat, but does not go far enough to address it".

Interfering with election systems of pushing out propaganda and disinformation "constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States", he 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.

At that same press conference, Trump blamed tensions between the United States and Russian Federation on special counsel Robert Mueller, whose investigation into Moscow's interference in the 2016 election is routinely slammed as a "witch hunt" by the president.

Amid serious backlash from both sides of the aisle, the Republican president later explained that he "misspoke" and said he had "great confidence" in United States intelligence. Russian Federation denies meddling and Trump has dismissed the probe as a "witch hunt". But the executive branch, including the President, will have the final say in whether sanctions will be applies.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Sen Marco Rubio, R-Fla., immediately issued a joint statement calling the White House effort insufficient and calling on Congress to pass tougher legislation now.

Bolton said if there were sufficient evidence of foreign interference, sanctions could come before an election, not just after.

"I think it's going to be good", said Sean Kanuck, a former intelligence officer for cyber issues, now with the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

According to the order, an array of federal agencies will be tapped to serve as the decision makers on whether interference has occurred.

The Departments of State and Treasury would decide on appropriate sanctions to recommend and impose, USA national security adviser John Bolton told reporters on a conference call.

"They, within another 45 days, will assess the validity and the impact of the intelligence".

Additionally, the order authorizes the State Department and the Treasury Department to add on additional sanctions, if deemed necessary.

Bolton denied that Wednesday's executive order was an effort to reverse the damage from Trump's remarks after the summit with Putin, which prompted outrage among lawmakers in both parties.

In a statement the Democratic National Committee said Trump's order "does nothing to hold Russian Federation accountable" for 2016. Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat who is vice chairman of the intelligence committee, said, "Unfortunately, President Trump demonstrated in Helsinki and elsewhere that he simply can not be counted upon to stand up to Putin when it matters".

"While the administration has yet to share the full text, an executive order that inevitably leaves the President broad discretion to decide whether to impose tough sanctions against those who attack our democracy is insufficient", said Sen Mark Warner, D-Va., the top Democrat on the Senate investigation into Russian Federation.

He said the intelligence community has been working on this for a while, but the executive order puts into place a formal process to ensure the administration is doing everything it possibly can to prevent foreign interference. The intelligence officials saying that they have also seen interference activity out of China, Iran, and North Korea.

USA intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russian Federation was behind an effort to tip the scale of the U.S. election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber-attacks and fake news stories planted on social media. It also authorizes sanctions for engaging in covert, fraudulent or deceptive activities, such as distributing disinformation or propaganda, to influence or undermine confidence in US elections. Some lawmakers - including some Republicans as well as Democrats - have chafed at what they saw as the administration's reluctance to implement it. Trump signed the bill only after Congress passed it with huge majorities.

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