President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP warns crime, immigration will spike if Dems win Former NSA chief breaks with other ex-intel officials over Brennan letter Puerto Rico governor issues scathing statement after Trump touts response to hurricane MORE on Wednesday signed an executive order mandating that sanctions be placed on foreign entities or individuals determined to have interfered with or have assisted with interference in US elections.
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said the order leaves the president with broad discretion to decide whether to impose tough sanctions.
Bolton said the executive order would apply to interference with campaign infrastructure as well as the distribution of propaganda and disinformation.
Under the order, the intelligence community would have 45 days to determine whether meddling occurred.
Trump was derided in July for not publicly confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin about the election interference during a summit in Helsinki. "As I have made clear, the United States will not tolerate any form of foreign meddling in our elections", Trump said in a statement after he signed the executive order.
The order, which comes just weeks ahead of November's midterm elections, will direct US intelligence agencies to investigate whether the election meddling took place.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said the intelligence community have seen "signs" of interference from Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, but nothing to the level of the 2016 election. U.S. intelligence agencies now believe that Russian Federation would again try to interfere the mid-term polls this year and also the 2020 presidential elections.
"We have not seen the intensity of what happened in 2016, but it's only a keyboard click away", he said.
That this announcement came first as a leak to U.S. 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.
Specifically, the executive order authorises appropriate and meaningful sanctions - some are full blocking sanctions, others are to be designed and calibrated in light of specific facts - against any individual, foreign entity, or country that authorises, directs, sponsors, or otherwise supports foreign interference in a United States election, he said.
Some lawmakers expressed dissatisfaction with the new executive order.
"I think his actions speak for themselves", he said.
Trump has repeatedly said he wants to combat foreign interference, Bolton said, and the United States has already sanctioned Russian individuals and entities. 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.
"The executive order is not country-specific", Bolton said.
The order, coming only eight weeks before congressional elections on November 6, drew immediate criticism from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers as too little, too late. But he said the order will apply not just to Russian Federation but to others possible bad actors, including China, North Korea, and Iran. "It's more than Russian Federation here that we're looking at", Coats said.
At the same time, outside experts have warned for more than a year that Russian efforts to manipulate USA voters through misleading social media postings are likely to have grown more sophisticated and harder to detect.