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: Judge upholds House subpoena for Trump financial records | Trump vows to appeal ruling by 'Obama-appointed judge' | Canada, Mexico lift retaliatory tariffs on US | IRS audit rate falls Mnuchin signals administration won't comply with subpoena for Trump tax returns Dem lawmakers urge FCC to scrutinize broadcast workforce diversity MORE (D-Md.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioAnother VPOTUS tries for POTUS: What does history tell us? Tensions swirl around Iran as administration to brief Congress Tensions swirl around Iran as administration to brief Congress 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 rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push 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.