Trump authorizes sanctions against foreigners who meddle in United States elections


President Trump plans to sign an executive order as soon as Wednesday that will slap sanctions on any foreign companies or people who interfere in US elections, based on intelligence agency findings, two sources told Reuters.

The move comes less than two months before the 2018 midterm elections, and just weeks after Dan Coats, Trump's director of national intelligence, warned of a "pervasive messaging campaign by Russian Federation to try to weaken and divide the United States" before Americans go to the polls in November.

Bolton said under the order, the intelligence community would have 45 days to determine whether there was meddling in the election.

The sanctions authority would be the latest effort by the Trump administration to address to concerns raised by USA intelligence agencies that Russian Federation is seeking to interfere in the 2018 US elections after doing so two years ago.

Trump's executive order declares that a "national emergency" exists linked to possible foreign interference in the United States elections, a declaration that creates a legal basis for the future imposition of sanctions linked to that issue.

The information would be provided to the Justice and Homeland Security departments, and then based on their assessment of the validity and impact, trigger automatic sanctions, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said. 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.

"We have not seen the intensity of what happened in 2016, but it's only a keyboard click away".

"We must make sure Vladimir Putin's Russian Federation, or any other foreign actor, understands that we will respond decisively and impose punishing consequences against those who interfere in our democracy", they said.

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The executive order applies to anyone who authorizes, directs or sponsors such meddling. It would base decisions on implementing sanctions on any USA intelligence community conclusion that meddling occurred.

The intelligence agencies have already detected possible "attempts" to interfere with - or intervene in - the November elections by four specific countries.

Trump has repeatedly denounced Muller's investigating as a "witch hunt".

James Clapper, the former national intelligence director who appeared with Rogers and other former intelligence officials, said he personally believes that the Russian interference did influence the outcome of the 2016 election, but didn't elaborate.

The U.S. attorney general and the Department of Homeland Security will then have 45 days to review those findings.

"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", said national security adviser John Bolton.

Coats warned last month that Russian efforts to undermine USA elections continue. Such "pool sprays" have been held while Trump signed previous orders - or entire public events in Washington and around the country scheduled around them. Several senators said Wednesday that the White House order was a good first step but fell short of what's needed and could give Trump too much wiggle room. Those backing the legislation say that under the bill, a nation would know exactly what it would face if caught.