Trump to issue order allowing sanctions on foreigners meddling in U.S

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Trump signed the order behind closed doors with no reporters present, a rare departure from what has been his standard practice.

"This is meant to be a very broad effort to prevent foreign manipulation of the political process", national security adviser John Bolton said during a briefing Wednesday.

Bolton said that the executive order, entitled "Imposing Certain Sanctions in the Event of Foreign Interference in a United States Election", would "protect the U.S. against interference in our elections and the political process more broadly".

"There has been no evidence of a foreign power altering the outcome or vote tabulation in any USA election", Trump said in a statement, nevertheless adding that "We're going to take strong action to secure our election systems and the process".

Coats said the new executive order is a response to Russia's actions in the 2016 election and "to make sure that doesn't happen again". White House Special Counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 13 Russian individuals and three companies for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

But critics said that Trump's move is not tough enough, and leaves him too much discretion, after the broad assault on the U.S. electoral process by Moscow two years ago. Russian Federation denies meddling and Trump has dismissed the probe as a "witch hunt".

Bolton said if there were sufficient evidence of foreign interference, sanctions could come before an election, not just after.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M Nielsen also said election security is national security and any attempt to interfere in the democratic institutions is unacceptable. "I think his actions speak for themselves".

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According to the order, an array of federal agencies will be tapped to serve as the decision makers on whether interference has occurred.

In the works for months, the order will allow the director of National Intelligence, with input from other intelligence agencies, to assess and identify foreign actors responsible for election meddling, and direct the Treasury Department to apply sanctions. Intelligence agencies would have 45 days to make an assessment.

Then the United States attorney general and Department of Homeland Security will have a further 45 days to decide whether to go forward with sanctions. If the USA determines that any foreign meddling has occurred, the executive order ensures a quick, forceful, and proportionate response, he said. He said he was in talks with lawmakers about possible legislation.

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.

"This clearly is a process put in place to try to assure that we are doing every possible thing we can, first of all, to prevent any interference with our elections, to report on anything we see between now and the election, but then to do a full assessment after the election to assure the American people just exactly what may have happened or may not have happened", Coats summarized.

Coats told reporters Wednesday the intelligence community has seen "signs" of interference attempts from China, Iran and North Korea.

Congress passed a Russian Federation sanctions bill more than a year ago.

The order sets up a high-level process for the USA intelligence community and other law enforcement officials to investigate and evaluate possible election meddling. Congress passed a Russian Federation sanctions bill more than a year ago.

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