Trump authorizes new sanctions against foreigners who meddle in United States elections

President Donald Trump talks about Hurricane Florence following a briefing in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington Tuesday Sept. 11 2018

President Donald Trump is signing an executive order authorizing sanctions against foreigners who meddle in US elections.

Trump's order comes less than 100 days before American voters head to the polls for the midterm elections, and just two months after Trump was derided by both Democrats and Republicans for declining to press Russian President Vladimir Putin harder on Russia's alleged election meddling, after the pair met in Helsinki.

The executive order covers not just interference with campaign infrastructure, but it also covers the distribution of disinformation and propaganda, national security adviser John Bolton told reporters. The intelligence officials saying that they have also seen interference activity out of China, Iran, and North Korea.

Sanctions could include freezing assets, restricting foreign exchange transactions, limiting access to U.S. financial institutions, and prohibiting United States citizens from investing in companies involved, said White House national security adviser John Bolton.

Trump's decision coincides with intelligence agencies, military and law enforcement preparing to defend the November 6 congressional elections from predicted foreign attacks even as Trump derides a special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. The intelligence agencies will then send their findings to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, which will have another 45 days to decide whether the USA should impose sanctions on the foreign entities in question.

Sanctions will be calibrated based on the seriousness of the interference, Bolton said.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russian Federation was behind an effort to tip the scale of the USA election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber-attacks and fake news stories planted on social media. It also describes a process for the Treasury and State departments to recommend appropriate, automatic sanctions. He cast the White House action as a way to strengthen US defenses immediately.

The lawmakers said Trump's executive order does not change the need for legislation.

"We are doing everything we possibly can, first of all to prevent any interference with our election, and then to do a full assessment after the election", Coats said Wednesday.

Sanctions authorized in the executive order include blocking of assets, transfer of property, USA investment in sanctioned companies, and restriction of travel. "Unfortunately, President Trump demonstrated in Helsinki and elsewhere that he simply can not be counted upon to stand up to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin when it matters", said Warner, who is sponsoring the bill.

Trump signed the bill into law only after Congress passed it with huge majorities. That's according to sources, who exclusively told Reuters an executive order could be signed by President Donald Trump as early as Wednesday (September 12). Those backing the legislation say that under the bill, a nation would know exactly what it would face if caught. "And if we don't do something, they (the Russians) are not going to stop".

In June, the United States slapped sanctions on several Russian companies and individuals for allegedly aiding Russia's intelligence agency in cyber-attacks against the US.

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