President Donald Trump has signed an Executive Order declaring a national emergency to deal with the threat of foreign interference in US elections and authorizing the Government to impose sanctions against any countries or foreign individuals found to have engaged in election meddling.
“The United States will not tolerate any form of foreign interference in its elections”, Trump said Wednesday after signing the order.
The Executive Order requires the intelligence community and other Federal agencies to assess the extent of any foreign interference after every election in the United States. The government will take “a quick, forceful, and proportionate response” if it determines that any foreign meddling has occurred.
Trump also directed the Executive Branch to develop a uniform process for assessing and determining foreign interference.
“As we enter election season this fall, the American people can rest assured that we are working diligently to ensure that our democracy remains secure from foreign threats,” he added.
The order comes three weeks after Microsoft claimed that its security wing has thwarted cyber-attacks against the US Senate and conservative think tanks by hackers linked to Russian military intelligence.
The software giant said the Russian group is linked to the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential election campaign, and had the potential to launch cyber attacks on candidates and other political groups ahead of the US mid-term elections in November.
The US intelligence community has concluded that in 2016, Russian operatives successfully carried out propaganda campaigns and leaks of sensitive political information.
A presidential Message to the Congress Wednesday said foreign powers have historically sought to exploit America’s free and open political system. “In recent years, the proliferation of digital devices and internet-based communications has created significant vulnerabilities and magnified the scope and intensity of the threat of foreign interference,” it says. Trump said he has directed the Director of National Intelligence to conduct regular assessments of any information indicating that foreign election interference has taken place.
National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said the directive was in response to alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, which Russia has repeatedly denied.
Trump had been criticized for his response to the Russian meddling.