US President Donald Trump signed a new executive order on September 12, 2018 imposing sanctions on any country or foreign individual found trying to interfere in the US elections.
Speaking on the occasion, Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton said that the move is intended to be a very broad effort to prevent foreign manipulation of the political process. He said the order describes a process whereby the Departments of State and Treasury will decide on appropriate sanctions to recommend and to impose on the countries or other actors that have engaged in this interference.
• The order calls for sanctions against any entity that authorises, directs or sponsors meddling operations in the American elections.
• The sanctions not only cover the interference with the election or campaign infrastructure but also the distribution of propaganda and disinformation.
• It will work to stem disinformation campaigns or any attempt to manipulate the outcome of ballots.
• It instructs the US intelligence community to monitor and report on attempts to disrupt election infrastructure as well as propaganda.
• It also imposes bans or restrictions on those suspected of carrying out the interference.
The move comes less than two months before the 2018 midterm elections and just weeks after Dan Coats, Trump's director of national intelligence, warned of a "pervasive messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States.”
Coats said that the US is not currently seeing the intensity of Russian intervention that was experienced in 2016, but didn't rule it out. He said the US was also worried about the cyber activities of China, North Korea and Iran.
"We have seen signs of meddling not just from Russia, but from China ... from Iran and even North Korea," Coats said.
Trump’s order, however, does not directly mention Russia or its influence operations in the 2016 election, though it would effectively punish any culprits involved in the US intelligence community findings regarding the controversy.
The move was arrived at after the president received criticism over his handling of Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential elections, which the US intelligence community confirmed took place last year.
US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to turn the US election campaign against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber-attacks and fake news stories planted on social media. Russia denied the accusations.
President Donald Trump also repeatedly downplayed the seriousness of the 2016 Russian cyber-warfare efforts. After a closed-door meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July, Trump said he believed Putin when he denied that Russia did not try to sway the 2016 election, despite the US intelligence community's public findings implicating the Kremlin.
In June, however, the US slapped sanctions on several Russian companies and individuals for allegedly aiding Russia's intelligence agency in cyber-attacks against the US.
Video: Check out the latest current affairs of this week
Who: Donald Trump