Washington: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order that initiates actions, including sanctions, against foreign entities that meddle or even attempt to interfere in American elections, the White House said.
"It is a further effort among several of those that the administration has made to protect the United States against foreign interference in our elections, and really our political process more broadly. It includes not just the interference with election or campaign infrastructure, but it also covers the distribution of propaganda, disinformation," US National Security Advisor John Bolton said.
Bolton said the executive order requires the Director of National Intelligence to be conducting regular assessments about potential foreign interference in the election and asks for reports by the department of justice and the department of homeland security in the case of interference with the election or campaign-related infrastructure.
The executive order describes a process whereby the department of state and department of treasury will decide on appropriate sanctions to recommend and to impose on the countries or other actors that have engaged in this interference, he said. "The executive order is not country-specific," Bolton said. This is because, he explained, threats to the integrity of the election process come from a number of sources.
"We felt it was important to demonstrate the president taking command of this issue and that it is something he cares deeply about the integrity of our elections and our Constitutional process or gives a high priority to it," he said.
Joining Bolton, the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said that this is an ongoing effort. While the intelligence community keeps a close tab on any international interference before the elections, after the elections, the executive order directs the intelligence agencies to assess whether or not whether or not there has been any individual entity, country that has authorised, directed sponsored or otherwise supported an interference in the US election, Coats said.
"We will combine that effort throughout the agency, and look to assess what has happened," he said adding that the executive order directs them to complete this in 40 days. If they determine and find anything that reflects an interference with the elections, they then will report that and automatic sanctions will take effect.
State and treasury departments would impose additional sanctions if they believe that this is not enough. "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 ensure the American people are told exactly of what may have happened or may not have happened. And if we see something has happened and then there's going to be an automatic response to that," Coats said.