Trump set to sign measure punishing election interference

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WASHINGTON-In a call with journalists today, National Security Advisor John Bolton and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates outlined an executive order just signed by President Donald Trump that would result in automatic sanctions against any foreign entities found to have attempted to interfere in U.S. elections.

The order will direct the intelligence community to assess if any foreign individual, entity or country has interfered in a US election, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told reporters at a conference call held at Wednesday noon.

Under the order, the intelligence community would have 45 days to determine whether meddling occurred.

The President has received harsh criticism from the Democratic opposition and from many Republicans for the skepticism with which he has treated the conclusions of the intelligence agencies that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential vote with the aim of helping him win, and for his praise of his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

The executive order is the latest effort by the Trump administration to look tough on security at the polls, even as Trump himself has blasted the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Bolton and Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats said the signing of the executive order on a conference call.

Attempts to infiltrate the US election infrastructure have waned since 2016, the director said, but potential threats are "only a keyboard click away". "We have several that we are tracking", he explained, "and have seen signs, from not just Russian Federation, but China, Iran, and North Korea".

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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. If interference is found, the DNI would have 45 days to assess who and report it to the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, who would then have 45 days to assess whether or not to apply sanctions. I think Department of Energy has made a clear statement of what his function there is, ' he said when asked by about the high-level visit, the first since Trump's Helsinki Summit.

"Today's announcement by the administration recognizes the threat, but does not go far enough to address it", Van Hollen and Rubio said.

"By mandating the imposition of sanctions against any individual or entity that seeks to interfere in our elections, we are sending a clear signal that the USA government will not tolerate interference of any kind and will use every tool at our disposal to protect our democratic process", she said.

The administration has also leveled sanctions against Russian Federation on numerous occasions as punishment for the Sergei Skripal nerve agent attack, interference in the 2016 election and other "malign" activity.

Bolton said Wednesday that the White House is open to ideas and proposals from lawmakers, but said new legislation might be slow in coming. "It is meant to be active now before the election", he said.

But, unlike a bipartisan bill now making its way through Congress, the order does not require Trump to issue stiff sanctions on such meddlers. Those backing the legislation say that under the bill, a nation would know exactly what it would face if caught. "It's more than Russian Federation here that we're looking at", Coats said.

Trump has been dogged by accusations that he has not given enough credence to foreign interference in the U.S. election system, including in the 2016 race he won against Hillary Clinton. He has cited USA sanctions and the expulsion of alleged Russian spies from the US.