Trump Executive Order Would Punish Foreigners Linked To Election Interference

Clay Curtis
September 12, 2018

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. The order, not yet released, is meant as a deterrent against interference in the 2018 midterm elections.

Coats listed Iran, North Korea and China as other countries that have the capability to launch attacks on 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.

Bolton said that the executive order, entitled "Imposing Certain Sanctions in the Event of Foreign Interference in a United States Election", would "protect the U.S. against interference in our elections and the political process more broadly".

Congress passed a Russian Federation sanctions bill more than a year ago. It covers overt efforts to meddle in election infrastructure, such as vote counts, as well as "propaganda" and other attempts to influence voting from overseas, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats told reporters.

Bolton said the order is not focused on any particular country, because threats to elections come from many different countries and entities. It would then turn over a report to officials in the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, who would then make their own determination.

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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 45-day period is based on when interference is believed to have happened and not specifically tied to Election Day.

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.

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

The move follows repeated criticism for the White House response to Russian-backed interference in the 2016 presidential election. "Our focus is, going forward, that we have the integrity of the election in place and we have the measures in place to deter and retaliate if necessary".

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.

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