The president signed an executive order today that sounds good but is really a giant ruse. Here’s what it authorizes:
The measure orders the director of national intelligence to investigate whether election meddling took place and who was responsible. After a 45-day review period, an assessment will be passed to the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, which will have an additional 45 days to determine if punishments are warranted.
Possible sanctions include freezing any U.S. assets of individuals or groups found to have interfered in the election, cutting off their access to the American financial system and banning them from entering the country.
[National Security Advisor John] Bolton said the American public will only learn of any determination of election interference when sanctions are announced, saying investigations must be kept private because they involve highly classified intelligence.
Officials said the order did not pertain to one country in particular — like Russia, which has regularly been the target of sanctions for election interference — over fears that others such as Iran, China and North Korea could also attempt to meddle in the U.S.’s elections.
“It’s more than Russia here that we are looking at,” said [Director of National Intelligence Dan] Coats.
The move was immediately panned by members of both parties in Congress.
Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who jointly introduced a piece of legislation that would impose penalties for election interference earlier this year, said in a statement Wednesday the order “does not go far enough to address” malicious activity by foreign entities.
“Mandatory sanctions on anyone who attacks our electoral systems serve as the best deterrent,” the senators said. “We must make sure Vladimir Putin’s Russia, or any other foreign actor, understands that we will respond decisively and impose punishing consequences against those who interfere in our democracy.”
The executive order appears intended to cut off the momentum in Congress to legislate on this issue. In addition to the Rubio-Van Hollen bill, the Senate Judiciary Committee is considering a bill today called the DETER Act that is co-sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL). It would deny entry into the country to any foreign national found to have interfered in U.S. elections.
Sen. Graham and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) also have a bill in the works that impose additional sanctions of Russia for their previous meddling. By signing this executive order, Trump is trying to look like he gives a damn about foreign interference in our elections, but he isn’t fooling Congress, and he should not fool you, either.