President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday authorizing officials to impose sanctions on foreign people and businesses who interfere in U.S. elections.
"We felt it was important to demonstrate the president has taken command of this issue, that it's something he cares deeply about -- that the integrity of our elections and our constitutional process are a high priority to him," national security adviser John Bolton told reporters Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. Trump has faced criticism for his failure to immediately acknowledge Russian meddling in the 2016 election despite confirmations by U.S. intelligence officials.
The order signed Wednesday directs administration officials to work with state and local officials to develop a process to determine whether election interference took place during any given election and authorizes sanctions against those who are found to have interfered.
Bolton said that immediate action will be taken if foreign interference is detected in the upcoming midterm elections, Bloomberg reported. National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said last month that officials haven’t seen the same level of interference seen during the 2016 presidential election, but Politico reported he didn’t rule out the possibility of further meddling.
“We are taking nothing for granted here,” he said. “We see attempts. We’re monitoring it very, very closely. It’s just an ongoing process. What we see is the capability and attempts. … We continue to analyze all that.”
Politico noted that former President Barack Obama amended one of his sanction directives in late 2016 to include election interference in response to Russian meddling.
"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 said, according to the AP.