Trump OKs sanctions for foreigners who meddle in elections

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President Trump plans to sign an executive order as soon as Wednesday that will slap sanctions on any foreign companies or people who interfere in US elections, based on intelligence agency findings, two sources told Reuters.

"We have seen signs of not just Russian Federation, but from China, and capabilities potentially from Iran, and even North Korea", interfering in the run-up to the November 6 congressional elections, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said, announcing the new order.

The US President has signed an order that allows the government to impose sanctions on any person or country that interferes with US elections.

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Trump has previously faced criticism for not being tough enough against Russian Federation after the US intelligence community concluded that Moscow had influenced the 2016 presidential election, and the new measure could be an attempt to show a sign of force ahead of the upcoming midterms. "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 served as a warning to foreign governments contemplating cyberstrikes on America's elections and campaigns, said Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, who also briefed reporters.

Coats told reporters on Wednesday the intelligence community continues to monitor attempts to influence USA elections, but "we have not seen the intensity of what happened in 2016". Coats said the United States had seen signs of election meddling from Russian Federation and China, and potential capabilities for such meddling from Iran and North Korea.

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"We have not seen the intensity of what happened in 2016, but as I have said ... it is only a keyboard click away", Mr. Coats said.

"So if the White House doesn't like something for some reason or wants to drag its feet or there's not enough information from the available intelligence, the automatic nature of this might not be as automatic as the executive order suggests", he said.

The State and Treasury departments will then be the ones to decide on the appropriate sanctions to recommend and impose, Bolton said.

"I think his actions speak for themselves", Bolton said.

"Today's announcement by the administration recognizes the threat, but does not go far enough to address it", Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen said in a joint statement Wednesday.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders later clarified Trump meant to say he had no reason to believe it "wouldn't" be Russian Federation, using the wrong word - but at that point, the damage of the remarks and the skepticism he expressed had already led to bipartisan outcry, particularly as intelligence officials warn that Russian Federation may continue to attempt to attack United States elections as the midterms approach in November.

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But aides have said that Trump's anger at what he views as a questioning of his surprise election victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton colors his view of the threat to future elections, and slowed down the administration's planning for this year's congressional election.

Both men gave a briefing on Wednesday outlining details of the executive order, which creates a framework to act should election meddling be identified. He said he was in talks with lawmakers about possible legislation.

"While the President appears to acknowledge that foreign actors will continue to attempt to interfere in our elections, he makes no mention of previous Russian attacks", they alleged.

Lawmakers and independent analysts say that federal and state action has already made USA voting systems more secure against foreign hackers.

The public will be informed of interference activity when sanctions occur, Bolton said Wednesday on the conference call.

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