US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order banning any form of foreign meddling in the American elections.
Based on the decree signed on Wednesday, any foreign companies or people who interfere in US elections, based on intelligence agency findings, will be slapped with sanctions.
The move comes amid an ongoing investigation into alleged interference of Russia in favor of Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Trump has repeatedly rejected there was any collusion between his campaign and Moscow. Russia has also slammed the allegations as baseless.
The signing of the executive order comes amid calls by US intelligence agencies, military and law enforcement that there should be more legal options to protect the November 6, 2018 congressional elections from any potential foreign interference.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said while announcing Trump’s new order on Wednesday that his department has seen signs that countries like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea have plans to interfere in the upcoming elections.
Officials had said Tuesday that the new sanctions will impact individual people or entire companies accused of interfering in elections by cyber attacks or other means.
A range of agencies including the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Homeland Security Department could also decide whether meddling occurred in the elections. Any federal agency that becomes aware of election interference by foreigners would be required to pass the information to the office of Director of National Intelligence, according to a draft of the executive order seen by reporters before Trump signed it.
The signing of the order comes despite Trump’s repeated refusals to sign a congressional sanctions bill against Russia a year ago. The US President only signed the bill after it was passed in the Congress with a huge majority of both the Republicans and the Democrats. The bill allowed the US Treasury to impose major sanctions against 24 Russians, a move which has been seen as one of the most aggressive punitive measures by Washington against Moscow.
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