US President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order on Wednesday that would authorise sanctions against countries or foreigners who try to interfere in American elections, according to a media report. The text of the order has not yet been released.
The White House imposed a number of new sanctions against Russia in March for election interference, and the Justice Department filed indictments against 12 Russian intelligence officers in July.
USA lawmakers have introduced various pieces of Russia-related legislation, including the "Deter Act", to set out punishments for election meddling, and what one lawmaker called a sanctions bill "from hell" to punish Moscow for cyber crime and its activities in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere.
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One source, a USA official, said the order would slap sanctions on any attempt to interfere in national elections. So the others, do incorporate - it's more than Russian Federation here that we're looking at'. The order described by a U.S. official familiar with its drafting as "another tool in the tool kit" to deter election interference by foreign adversaries, according to The Wall Street Journal. Bolton noted that the scope of the order included not just attacks on election infrastructure but also "the distribution of propaganda" meant to impact the electoral process.
The intelligence community would have 45 days to make its assessment, and then the two departments would have 45 days to determine whether action is required, he told reporters on a conference call. "We're looking at having evidence that interference has occurred", Bolton explained, "and that happens after the election but doesn't preclude there would be evidence in the course of the election".
It came as Congress has been weighing its own legislation to punish those interfering in elections, which the White House reportedly fears could overly tie the president's hands.
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The order sets up a 90-day time frame for assessing reports of any kind of interference by foreign individuals and companies, and then deciding on the appropriate sanctions, which include freezing assets, banning business dealings with Americans and locking the actors out of the U.S. financial system.
The sanctions themselves range from blocked assets, export licenses, access to banking and lending, credit transfers, or US investors, according to Bolton.
That this announcement came first as a leak to USA news outlets and then as an announcement from National Security Advisor John Bolton underlines how fraught a subject it is for this particular White House. The Deter Act, proposed in January by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida), would mandate broad economic sanctions against Russian companies and require the White House to identify other countries that had been involved in electoral interference and provide proposed sanctions within 90 days.
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