Today President Donald Trump signed an executive order called “Imposing Certain Sanctions in the Event of Foreign Interference in a United States Election.”
The order is a clear step to empower the administration to impose sanctions on foreign governments and individuals who try to manipulate U.S. elections.
As per the order, the administration will be responsible for composing reports on potential election interference and empowers the State Department and Treasury Departments to dole out appropriate sanctions on foreign actors.
The State Department and Treasury Department have a 45-day time period to come to a decision about the appropriate level of sanctions and are required to turn over their findings to both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.
While the order lists no specific actors or foreign nations by name, the signing of this order comes just two months before the 2018 midterm elections and just a few weeks after Dan Coates, the director of national intelligence, warned of a “pervasive messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States” prior to the midterms.
“We are doing everything we possibly can, first of all to prevent any interference with our election, and then to do a full assessment after the election,” Coats said told reporters at the White House after the signing, per USA Today.
Trump administration officials made it clear the order empowers the administration to go after not only direct campaign interference but also malicious online propaganda and misinformation campaigns, too.
“Basically, it’s a further effort among several of the administration has made to protect the United States against foreign interference in our elections and, really, our political process more broadly,” Bolton told reporters, according to an ABC News report.
As The Atlantic reports, despite the president’s repeated claims that the Robert Mueller-led special counsel investigation into his 2016 campaign’s ties with Russia, the White House hopes the signing of the order will make it clear they take election security seriously.
Political leaders on both sides of the aisle appear to be underwhelmed by the Trump administration’s efforts to keep foreign actors out of U.S. elections.
Sens. Marco Rubio and Chris Van Hollen, who proposed a bill that would have introduced similar mandatory sanctions earlier this year, released a joint statement after the order was signed.
“Today’s announcement by the administration recognizes the threat, but does not go far enough to address it. The United States can and must do more. Mandatory sanctions on anyone who attacks our electoral systems serve as the best deterrent.”