President Signs Executive Order to Impose Sanctions in the Event of Foreign Interference in U.S. Elections

President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order (“E.O.”), dated September 12, 2018, directing intelligence and law enforcement agencies to assess foreign interference in U.S. elections, and authorizing sanctions against foreign persons found to have engaged in, assisted or otherwise supported such activity.

In Section 1 of the E.O., President Trump established a multi-step process for assessing and evaluating the involvement of a “foreign government, or any person acting as an agent of or on behalf of a foreign government” in actual or attempted interference in a U.S. election. The initial assessment, to be conducted by the Director of National Intelligence in consultation with other agencies, is to be done within 45 days after the conclusion of an election. During the subsequent 45-day period, the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with others, are to deliver to the President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Defense a report evaluating (i) the extent to which foreign interference materially affected election infrastructure, vote tabulation or the timely transmission of results, and (ii) the extent to which such interference materially affected the security or integrity of infrastructure related to political candidates, campaigns, and other political organizations.

Section 2 of the E.O. authorizes the imposition of blocking sanctions against foreign persons determined (i) to have directly or indirectly engaged in, sponsored, concealed or otherwise been complicit in foreign interference in a U.S. election; (ii) to have materially assisted, sponsored or otherwise supported such interference, or to have supported any person sanctioned in connection with such interference; or (iii) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or to have purported to act for or on behalf of, any person sanctioned under the E.O. Section 2 also notes that two Obama-era E.O.s remain in effect, which provide additional authorities for sanctions in connection with election-related and certain other “malicious cyber-related activities.”

Section 3 of the E.O. directs the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with others, to recommend to the President a range of potential sanctions – from complete blocking, to restrictions on the extension of credit, to a prohibition on dealings in equity or debt – against “the largest business entities licensed or domiciled in a country whose government authorized, directed, sponsored, or supported election interference,” including at least one entity from each of the finance, defense, energy, technology and transportation sectors.

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