President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that would allow his administration to target individuals or nations who seek to interfere in USA elections, sending a signal to Russian Federation and others following efforts to meddle in his own election.
The White House has worked to push back against accusations that Trump was not seriously committed to aggressively protecting USA elections from interference, especially after his press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July.
The sanctions authority would be the latest effort by the Trump administration to address to concerns raised by USA intelligence agencies that Russian Federation is seeking to interfere in the 2018 US elections after doing so two years ago.
While Coates said that "we have not seen the intensity of activity from 2016", the intelligence community has seen signs that there are efforts underway by a number of actors to manipulate the political process this year.
That drew outrage from both Republican and Democrats.
Trump's national security adviser John Bolton denied that harsh reaction to Trump's Helsinki meeting with Putin was partly what spurred the decision to sign the new order. With the current climate focused on Russian interference, Bolton was quick to clarify that the executive order is "not country-specific" and that Trump "cares deeply about it". The attorney general and Department of Homeland Security then have another 45 days to assess whether sanctions should be imposed.
U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russian Federation was behind an effort to tip the scale of the USA election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber-attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.
The State and Treasury departments would decide on appropriate additional sanctions to recommend and impose, he said.
At their summit in Helsinki, Trump downplayed USA intelligence assessments that Russian Federation was responsible for cyberattacks on Democrats ahead of the 2016 election.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told reporters on Wednesday that the United States is not now seeing a Russian interference campaign, but warned that "it's only a keyboard click away".
The lawmakers said Trump's executive order does not change the need for legislation. They said Trump's order recognizes the threat, but doesn't go far enough. That's according to sources, who exclusively told Reuters an executive order could be signed by President Donald Trump as early as Wednesday (September 12).
Sanctions authorized in the executive order include blocking of assets, transfer of property, USA investment in sanctioned companies, and restriction of travel. Instead, he seemed to accept Putin's denials that Moscow sought to influence the presidential contest. He said he was in talks with lawmakers about possible legislation. Russian entities have not targeted those systems to the degree they did in 2016, Coats said Wednesday. He has cited US sanctions and the expulsion of alleged Russian spies from the U.S.