Cybersecurity

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 Schumer (D-N.Y.), sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin 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.

The letter was signed by Schumer and Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Gary Peters (Mich.) and Jack Reed (R.I.), Mark Warner (Va.) and Ron Wyden (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 Trump, while Iranian and Chinese actors were interfering in favor of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

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.

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 Mueller, 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 Ratcliffe 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.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Bob Menendez Charles Schumer China Chuck Schumer Department of the Treasury Dianne Feinstein Dick Durbin Donald Trump election interference Election Security Gary Peters intelligence community Iran Jack Reed Joe Biden John Ratcliffe Mark Warner Moscow ODNI Patrick Leahy Robert Mueller Ron Wyden Russia sanctions Sherrod Brown Steve Mnuchin Steven Mnuchin

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