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Top Democrats press Trump to sanction Russian individuals over 2020 election interference efforts

Top Democrats press Trump to sanction Russian individuals over 2020 election interference efforts

A group of leading Senate Democrats on Thursday called on the Trump administration to impose sanctions on Russians for recent efforts to interfere in the November U.S. elections.

The top Democrats on 10 Senate committees, along with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerNRSC chair says he'll back GOP incumbents against Trump primary challengers Schumer becomes new Senate majority leader US Chamber of Commerce to Biden, Congress: Business community 'ready to help' MORE (D-N.Y.), sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinPence delivers coronavirus task force report to Biden Treasury imposes additional sanctions on Cuba over allegations of 'serious human rights abuse' Treasury Department sanctions inner circle of Russian agent Derkach for election interference MORE urging him to impose sanctions on specific Kremlin-linked individuals.

“Congress mandated a broad range of sanctions tools, and it is long past time for the administration to send a direct message to President Putin: the U.S. will respond immediately and forcefully to continuing election interference by the government of the Russian Federation and its surrogates, to punish, deter and substantially increase the economic and political costs of such interference,” the Senate Democrats wrote.

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The letter was signed by Schumer and Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenate Democrats file ethics complaint against Hawley, Cruz over Capitol attack Facebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Biden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs MORE (Ohio), Dick DurbinDick DurbinOvernight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 Senate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief MORE (Ill.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSchumer becomes new Senate majority leader Democrats torn on impeachment trial timing Justice Dept. closes insider trading case against Burr without charges MORE (Calif.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharA Day in Photos: The Biden Inauguration Senators vet Buttigieg to run Transportation Department Democrats shoot down McConnell's filibuster gambit MORE (Minn.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee Democrats swear in three senators to gain majority Pompeo's flurry of foreign policy moves hampers Biden start MORE (Vt.), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate presses Biden's pick for secretary of State on Iran, China, Russia and Yemen Year-end deal creates American Latino, women's history museums Lawmakers call for including creation of Latino, women's history museums in year-end spending deal MORE (N.J.), Gary PetersGary PetersThe Hill's Morning Report - President Biden, Vice President Harris begin work today Two Senate committees vow probe of security failure during Capitol riots US government caught blindsided over sophisticated cyber hack, experts say MORE (Mich.) and Jack ReedJack ReedSenate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee Senate panel advances Biden Pentagon nominee Overnight Defense: Biden inaugurated as 46th president | Norquist sworn in as acting Pentagon chief | Senate confirms Biden's Intel chief MORE (R.I.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerBipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief Social media posts, cellphone data aid law enforcement investigations into riots 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate MORE (Va.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Democrats file ethics complaint against Hawley, Cruz over Capitol attack With a new president and a new Congress, it's time for Medicare drug price negotiation The Hill's Morning Report - President Biden, Vice President Harris begin work today MORE (Ore.).

In their letter, the senators pointed to a recent analysis by William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, which concluded that Russia was attempting to interfere in the 2020 election in favor of President TrumpDonald TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism MORE, while Iranian and Chinese actors were interfering in favor of Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenRev. Barber says best way to undercut extremism is with honesty Biden requires international travelers to quarantine upon arrival to US Overnight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 MORE.

Evanina wrote that "Kremlin-linked actors" were attempting to "boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television," and that "pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach is spreading claims about corruption" in regards to Biden. 

The senators urged Mnuchin to use powers created by a 2018 executive order that allows the Treasury secretary to impose sanctions in the event of foreign interference in the U.S. election.

“As many of us have observed, there is virtually no national security threat more serious than that posed by those who would undermine confidence in, and the effective operation of, our democratic elections,” they added.

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The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment on the letter.

The U.S. has previously imposed sanctions on multiple Russians and on the Internet Research Agency, a Russian-backed troll farm, for interfering in the 2018 midterm elections through spreading disinformation on social media.

The Internet Research Agency and several of the same Russians were also sanctioned by the Treasury Department in 2018 for interfering in U.S. elections two years earlier through the use of cyberattacks and other techniques.

According to the U.S. intelligence community, along with the Senate Intelligence Committee and the report compiled by former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE, Russian agents launched a sweeping and sophisticated interference effort ahead of the 2016 presidential election in favor of Trump.

Democrats have raised serious concerns this week following the decision by Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeSenate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official Biden intelligence chief pledges to keep politics out of job House panels open review of Capitol riot MORE to halt in-person congressional briefings on election security, and instead submit written statements.

Ratcliffe accused members of Congress of leaking information from recent briefings following public comments from leading Democrats that the intelligence community was attempting to equate Russian interference with efforts from Iran and China, with Democrats alleging that Russia’s efforts are far greater.