President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that will slap sanctions on foreign companies or people who interfere in U.S. elections.
Trump has drawn widespread criticism for not taking threats to the United States electoral system seriously enough, particularly Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race.
The order will direct the intelligence community to assess if any foreign individual, entity or country has interfered in a USA election, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told reporters at a conference call held at Wednesday noon.
Bolton said over the last two weeks, he and Coats have spoken to over two dozen members of Congress to discuss possible ideas but said he believes the executive order is an "important step for the president to take as leader of the executive branch".
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.
"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. It also directs the executive branch to develop a uniform process for assessing and determining foreign interference in United States elections.
The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal previously reported on earlier drafts of the executive order.
Former National Security Agency chief Mike Rogers said in his first public remarks since leaving his post in June that he wishes President Donald Trump would have used the Helsinki Summit to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin on election meddling.
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The U.S. attorney general and the Department of Homeland Security will then have 45 days to review those findings. "And DHS [will] seek sanctions against them".
Sanctions could include freezing assets, restricting foreign exchange transactions, limiting access to United States financial institutions, and prohibiting USA citizens from investing in companies involved, said White House national security adviser John Bolton.
The Treasury and State departments also would be advised of the election attack and would be able to impose additional sanctions.
However, the opposition Democrats were not satisfied with the executive order.
But, they added, "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".
"If we see something has happened, there will be an automatic response to that", he said. "The way we have been doing it [until now] is fingernail-pulling".
"Unfortunately, President Trump demonstrated in Helsinki and elsewhere that he simply can not be counted upon to stand up to Putin when it matters", Warner said.
"I think his actions speak for themselves", 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.