President Trump authorizes sanctions against United States elections meddling

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The harshest sanctions outlined in the order would be up to the president's discretion.

However, the opposition Democrats were not satisfied with the executive order.

Sanction targets could include individual people or entire companies accused of interfering in USA elections by cyber attacks or other means, a United States official told Reuters.

Coats added that, while the order is a response to Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election, the Trump administration is looking beyond Moscow.

He has appeared to take Russian President Vladimir Putin's word that Russia did not interfere on his behalf in the election, most recently when he and the Russian leader met for a widely criticized summit in Helsinki, in July.

Bolton said the sanctions would be imposed not just for direct actions, such as hacking into election systems, but also for distribution of propaganda and disinformation.

Joining Bolton, the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said that this is an ongoing effort.

There is some frustration among lawmakers that with this executive order, Mr. Trump could be undercutting congressional efforts.

Trump instead renewed a demand for an investigation of Clinton's email practices as secretary of state and noted that Putin had issued an "extremely strong and powerful" denial. Bolton said the order was necessary to ensure a formal process and authorisation for sanctions.

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USA lawmakers have introduced various pieces of Russia-related legislation, including the "Deter Act", to set out punishments for election meddling, and what one lawmaker called a sanctions bill "from hell" to punish Moscow for cyber crime and its activities in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere. This is because, he explained, threats to the integrity of the election process come from a number of sources.

State and treasury departments would impose additional sanctions if they believe that this is not enough.

In the discussion on Tuesday evening, Rogers also recounted his conversations with Trump about Russia's continued attempts to disrupt the USA electoral system through cyber means in 2016 and beyond.

The executive order applies to anyone who authorizes, directs or sponsors such meddling. "Unfortunately, President Trump demonstrated in Helsinki and elsewhere that he simply can not be counted upon to stand up to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin when it matters", said Warner, who is sponsoring the bill.

Administration officials said the executive order sets up a framework for assessing interference, reporting it to the president and punishing it with sanctions. The White House hopes the order will help dispel the notion that Trump has allowed election meddling to go unchallenged.

Dan Coats, the U.S. director of national intelligence, said that the intelligence community had not yet spotted activity on a scale of that seen before the 2016 election, but warned that escalation was only a "keyboard click" away. US officials have also identified China, Iran and North Korea as potential threats.

"We have not seen the intensity of what happened in 2016, but it's only a keyboard click away", he said.

'This clearly is a process put in place to try to assure that we are doing every possible thing we can to first of all prevent any interference in our election, ' said Coats. They said Trump's order recognizes the threat, but doesn't go far enough. "And if we don't do something, they (the Russians) are not going to stop".

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