Trump authorizes new sanctions against foreigners who meddle in U.S. elections

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AFP Getty Images

The United States can and must do more.

Bolton said the executive order would apply to interference with campaign infrastructure as well as the distribution of propaganda and disinformation.

There is some frustration among lawmakers that Mr Trump's executive order could undercut congressional efforts to deter any election meddling in the U.S. by foreign powers, according to CBS News.

Coats and other United States intelligence chiefs have said since the beginning of 2017 that Russian President Vladimir Putin presided over a concerted effort via hacking and social media manipulation to boost Trump's chances in 2016 to defeat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

In his announcement, indeed, Trump again rejected the idea that his 2016 victory was aided by foreign interference.

There have been ongoing concerns about attacks or disinformation campaigns, fueled in part by Trump's own attacks against the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russia's activities and into possible collusion with Trump's own campaign staff.

Mike Rogers, former director of the National Security Agency, said he thought Trump missed an opportunity in Helsinki to publicly scold Russian Federation for meddling.

The harshest sanctions outlined in the order would be up to the president's discretion.

"Zero", he said when asked what role the backlash played.

"The president has said repeatedly that he is determined that there not be foreign interference in our political process", Bolton said on a conference call.

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

The order would direct intelligence agencies to assess whether any people or entities interfered.

As the director of national intelligence, Coats will oversee regular assessments about potential foreign election meddling and request reports from the Homeland Security and Justice departments determining whether action needs to be taken.

In the past year Mueller's team has filed charges against 12 hackers of the Russian GRU intelligence agency, and 13 people, including a top Putin crony, linked to the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, which USA intelligence says is a major source of online disinformation.

Sanctions authorized in the executive order include blocking of assets, transfer of property, United States investment in sanctioned companies, and restriction of travel. Those backing the legislation say that under the bill, a nation would know exactly what it would face if caught.

Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat who is vice chairman of the intelligence committee, said, "Unfortunately, President Trump demonstrated in Helsinki and elsewhere that he simply can not be counted upon to stand up to Putin when it matters".

"An executive order that inevitably leaves the president broad discretion to decide whether to impose tough sanctions against those who attack our democracy is insufficient", Mark Warner, the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

"This is meant to be a very broad effort to prevent foreign manipulation of the political process", national security adviser John Bolton said during a briefing Wednesday. Coats did not tell reporters what evidence, if any, the intelligence community has seen of Russian hacking this year, but mentioned that he had seen "capability and attempts" from Iran, China, and North Korea as well.

"It's more than Russian Federation here that we're looking at", he said.

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