Friday, 21 September, 2018

Trump approves sanctions on foreigners for election meddling

AFP  Getty Images AFP Getty Images
Jeannette Daniel | 14 September, 2018, 21:31

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday authorizing sanctions against foreigners who meddle in USA elections, a move that counters critics who claim he has not taking election security seriously enough.

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.

Coats and National Security Advisor John Bolton, who also presented the new order to the press, said it showed that President Trump was prioritizing American election security.

Under the order, interference will be defined, at least in part, by attempts to hack US election infrastructure or manipulate public opinion via online propaganda.

The intelligence agencies will then send their findings to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, which will have another 45 days to decide whether the US should impose sanctions on the foreign entities in question.

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

Coats said USA intelligence and law enforcement agencies were looking broadly for evidence of interference.

It also comes as the White House is trying to take a tougher line against Moscow after Trump publicly accepted Russian President Vladimir Putin's denials of his country's involvement in any interference in the 2016 US presidential elections, contrary to the findings of the USA intelligence community.

"While the President appears to acknowledge that foreign actors will continue to attempt to interfere in our elections, he makes no mention of previous Russian attacks", they alleged.

More news: Hurricane Florence lashes USA east coast, triggers flood warnings

Congress passed a financial sanctions bill against the Kremlin over a year ago and since January 2017, over 200 individuals and companies with connections to Russian Federation have been subjected to its penalties. Those backing the legislation say that under the bill, a nation would know exactly what it would face if caught.

"When it comes to foreign policy, my administration has delivered decisively and taken action where previous administrations have not", Trump said.

Though Trump has raised eyebrows with his friendly posture toward Moscow, his administration has often signaled a harder line against Russian Federation - a "two-track" approach, as an anonymous administration official described it in an explosive New York Times op-ed on September 5. He cast the White House action as a way to strengthen USA defenses immediately.

Mr. Trump later said he misspoke and vouched for intelligence agencies' findings. The order, according to administration officials, is broad in terms of who and what can be sanctioned.

"I think his actions speak for themselves", he said.

The executive order does not name any particular country.

Automatic sanctions should act as a deterrent, he said, although he added a major caveat.

The White House declined to comment. "So if the White House doesn't like something for some reason or wants to drag its feet or there's not enough information from the available intelligence, the automatic nature of this might not be as automatic as the executive order suggests", he said. Following those reports, the Treasury and State Departments can decide on appropriate and additional sanctions to impose.

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