By Deb Reichmann, Associated Press and PBS NewsHour
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday authorizing sanctions against foreigners who meddle in U.S. elections, a move that counters critics who claim he has not taken election security seriously enough.
The executive order covers not just interference with campaign infrastructure, but it also covers the distribution of disinformation and propaganda, national security adviser John Bolton told reporters.
The order requires the Office of the National Intelligence Director to conduct regular assessments about potential foreign interference in the elections, asks for reports by the Homeland Security and Justice departments in the case of meddling in campaign-related infrastructure, he said.
It also describes a process for the Treasury and State departments to recommend appropriate, automatic sanctions.
(President Trump signed an executive order taking action against foreign entities credibly accused of interfering in U.S. elections as the battle for control of Congress intensifies. Courtesy of MSNBC and YouTube. Posted on Sep 12, 2018.)
With the midterm elections now two months away, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said the U.S. is not currently seeing the intensity of Russian intervention that was experienced in 2016, but didn’t rule it out.
“We felt it was important to demonstrate the president has taken command of this issue, that it’s something he cares deeply about — that the integrity of our elections and our constitutional process are a high priority to him,” Bolton said.
“This clearly is a process put in place to try to assure that we are doing every possible thing we can, first of all, to prevent any interference with our elections, to report on anything we see between now and the election, but then to do a full assessment after the election to assure the American people just exactly what may have happened or may not have happened,” Coats said.
(Sen. Chuck Grassley, (R-Iowa), on President Trump’s executive order on election interference and the upcoming vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Courtesy of Fox Business and YouTube. Posted on Sep 12, 2018.)
Trump has drawn widespread criticism for not taking threats to the U.S. electoral system seriously enough, particularly Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race.
At a July 16 news conference in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump was asked if he would denounce what happened in 2016 and warn Putin never to do it again. Trump did not directly answer the question.
Instead, he delivered a rambling response, including demands for investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server and his description of Putin’s “extremely strong and powerful” denial of meddling. That drew outrage from both Republican and Democrats.
Trump has pushed back, saying that no other American president has been as tough on Russia.
He has cited U.S. sanctions and the expulsion of alleged Russian spies from the U.S.
U.S. AG Sessions Statement Regarding the Election Security Executive Order:
“The American people will not tolerate attempts to undermine the integrity of our electoral process—especially by foreign countries and other bad actors.”
“President Trump is committed to taking definitive action to prevent anyone—foreign or domestic—from illegally interfering in our elections, and the Department of Justice is proud to support him in this mission.”
“Pursuant to the President’s executive order, the Department will work with our partners at the State Department, Treasury Department, and Department of Homeland Security, in order to identify enemies of our country who put our electoral integrity at risk.”
“Once we do, we will take action to bring them to justice.”
“I applaud President Trump’s leadership on this issue, and I want to echo the clear message he has sent today: we will not accept attacks on our free elections and we will do whatever it takes to protect them.”
“This is what the American people demand, and this is what they deserve.”
DHS Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen Statement on Trump’s Executive Order:
“Today’s Executive Order demonstrates the Administration’s continued commitment to securing our nation’s election infrastructure.”
“As I have said on numerous occasions, election security is national security and any attempt to interfere in our democratic institutions is unacceptable.”
(Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen reacted to breaking news from Facebook, which announced it uncovered new “sophisticated” efforts, possibly linked to Russia, believed to be aimed at American voters ahead of the midterm elections. Courtesy of the Fox News Insider and YouTube. Posted on Aug 1, 2018.)