The Trump administration informed lawmakers that new Russia sanctions called for in a bipartisan bill passed almost unanimously last year, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, are not necessary yet because the measure is already “serving as a deterrent.” The sanctions bill was not a deterrent but a set of sanctions, requiring the imposition of penalties now against entities doing “significant” business with Moscow’s defense and intelligence sectors. Hours before the Trump Administration made their announcement, CIA director Mike Pompeo said Russia hadn’t scaled back its election interference efforts. The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, blasted the administration for Monday’s delay. “The Trump administration had a decision to make whether they would follow the law and crack down on those responsible for attacking American democracy in 2016. They chose instead to let Russia off the hook yet again.”
While Trump is dragging his feet, Democrats and Republicans alike are working to counter Russian election meddling. A pair of senators from each party is introducing legislation meant to deter foreign governments from interfering in future American elections. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on Tuesday introduced the “Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act,” which lays out specific foreign actions against U.S. elections that would warrant penalties from the federal government.
Van Hollen said the bill tells Russia “if you attack us, the consequences will be severe.” In the event of future interference specifically by Russia, the bill expands penalties already imposed by the Countering America’s Adversaries Act of 2017. Banned foreign actions include buying political ads, using social media to spread falsehoods, and hacking or hindering election- or campaign-related information.
Also, a bipartisan cadre of six lawmakers introduced the Secure Elections Act to help states bolster cybersecurity of their voting systems, including authorizing block grants for state officials to upgrade outdated voting technology. Russian hackers targeted election-related systems in 21 states ahead of the 2016 vote.
Meanwhile, a pair of House Democrats has pushed for appropriators to allocate the remaining $400 million from the Help America Vote Act for states to upgrade their voting equipment. The bill’s path forward is uncertain, though its bipartisan backing could bode well for its passage.
If you have an opinion on the Secure Elections Act, the amendment to the Help America Vote Act, the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines bill, or Trump’s decision not to enforce the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, you can contact your Senators and share your concerns.