September 12. 2018
The White House- Emerald Robinson, Chief White House Correspondent
President Trump signed an executive order early Wednesday to deter meddling into U.S. election by foreign entities ahead of the 2018 mid-terms and the 2020 presidential election. The executive order, called “Imposing Certain Sanctions in the Event of Foreign Interference in a United States Election,” establishes a mechanism to impose sanctions on any foreign individual or company found interfering.
On a conference call with reporters, National Security Advisor John Bolton said this is a multi-agency process put in place to assure that the administration is doing everything possible to prevent any interference ahead of the elections and will provide for full assessment after the election to assure the American people of the integrity of their vote. With the current climate focused on Russian interference, Bolton was quick to clarify that the executive order is “not country-specific” and that Trump “cares deeply about it.” The intelligence officials saying that they have also seen interference activity out of China, Iran, and North Korea.
Bolton was joined on the call by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who outlined how the process of identifying interference and then imposing sanctions will work. It directs the U.S. intelligence community to determine if there has been any individual, company, or country that has interfered in a U.S. election. The intelligence community assesses the information and then turn it over to the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, who will then have 45 days to decide whether to pass it on to the Treasury Department to determine and implement sanctions. The order gives the administration broad authority to the government to sanction any foreign entity suspected of interfering in U.S. elections.
The two intelligence officials insisted that the timing of the executive order has nothing to do with the criticism that followed the President’s remarks at the Helsinki Summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin back in July. When asked how much the Helsinki press conference played into the administration’s decision to create this executive order, Bolton gave a definitive “zero” in response and added that the President’s actions on election integrity “speak for themselves.” Coats asserted that the administration had long been working on the issue of election security.
The directive targets interference to include not only cyber attacks, but also election infrastructure interference and propaganda campaigns. The officials welcomed further discussion with lawmakers on other ideas as several members of Congress have proposed legislation to the address the issue that would require the typical congressional approval process. However, Bolton said the administration wanted to immediately address and create a mechanism for election security that would be quicker than legislation having to pass Congress.