Senators reintroduce bipartisan bill aimed at preventing Russian interference in elections

A pair of bipartisan senators on Wednesday reintroduced legislation that would require the director of national intelligence (DNI) to determine whether there was any foreign interference in federal elections and impose sanctions on any nations found to interfere.

The bill, authored by Sens. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOn The Money: Retirement savings bill blocked in Senate after fight over amendments | Stopgap bill may set up December spending fight | Hardwood industry pleads for relief from Trump trade war GAO reviewing Trump hold on Ukraine military aid Democrats unveil proposal for 'millionaires surtax' MORE (D-Md.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump Paul's demand to out whistleblower rankles GOP colleagues MORE (R-Fla.), would give the DNI 60 days after every federal election to investigate whether there was any foreign meddling and issue a report to Congress on the findings.

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Election influence operations covered under the legislation would include the purchase of ads to influence Americans, social media disinformation campaigns and hacks on election infrastructure, including campaign emails.

The bill specifically targets Russia, which U.S. intelligence has determined interfered in the 2016 presidential election, requiring that any further election meddling from the Kremlin be met with strict sanctions within 30 days of the DNI report.

The legislation is similar to an executive order issued by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report MORE last year, which requires the administration to determine if there was any foreign interference in federal elections. If any meddling is detected, sanctions are then imposed on foreign actors involved in the process.

While Van Hollen and Rubio said at the time of Trump's order that they supported the move, they said they still wanted their legislation to move forward.

And the reintroduction of the bill on Wednesday points to a belief that not enough has been done to counter election interference, particularly that coming from Russia.

“As we head into the 2020 election cycle, we must be vigilant against attacks from the Kremlin or anyone who seeks to follow their example,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “The focus of our legislation is to prevent any future efforts to manipulate our elections. By making it clear in advance that attempts to interfere in our elections will be met with swift, harsh consequences, we can deter hostile foreign powers from taking future interference — but we must act now.”

Rubio said the bill “makes it crystal clear to Russia and other hostile governments that the United States will respond immediately and overwhelmingly to future attempts to interfere in or undermine our elections.”  

“I urge Congress to come together and decisively protect our elections and the American people for years to come against foreign adversaries that are determined to tear us down and divide us in order to build themselves up,” he said in a statement.

The Trump administration has said there is no evidence that any foreign interference had a "material impact" on the 2018 midterm elections.

Officials and experts have pointed to the 2020 presidential election as being a high-profile target for foreign interference.