Will not tolerate any form of foreign meddling in US elections

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It will impose sanctions on any foreign entities found trying to meddle in USA elections, and would be "another tool in the tool kit" to protect the US election system, an administration official told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

The president appeared to side with Mr. Putin and against USA intelligence agencies that said the Kremlin meddled in 2016 to sow division, hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and help Mr. Trump.

Mr Trump has been criticised for his response to alleged Russian meddling. Mueller is also looking into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Trump has repeatedly dismissed the investigation as a "witch hunt".

Rather than issuing a weak executive order two years after these attacks, President Trump should have responded swiftly and strongly, they said. Apple creating portal for police data requests Trump to order sanctions on foreign companies that meddle in USA elections: report The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance - Hurricane Florence a new test for Trump team MORE said.

He said the executive order is not country-specific because the threats come from a "number of sources".

Election interference will be defined in the order as hacking attempts against "election infrastructure", and efforts to sway public opinion through coordinated digital propaganda or systematic leaks of private political information. "I think his actions speak for themselves". The order would direct intelligence agencies to assess whether any people or entities interfered.

The Departments of State and Treasury would decide on appropriate sanctions to recommend and impose, USA national security adviser John Bolton told reporters on a conference call.

Rogers and the other senior intelligence officials working for both Trump and Obama have routinely affirmed the intelligence community's January 2017 declassified assessment that the senior-most echelons of the Kremlin were behind aggressive attempts to sow chaos and damage trust in elections, with the aim of electing Trump.

Justice and Homeland Security would have 45 days to make a determination and notify the president to trigger the sanctions.

If DOJ and DHS officials concurred with the director of national intelligence's report, sanctions would "automatically" be leveled against those determined to be behind the interference; the State Department and Department of the Treasury would then review the sanctions and determine whether they were sufficient and appropriate to the severity of the activity. Bolton said the order was necessary to ensure a formal process and authorisation for sanctions. He called it a necessary response to Russia's "hostile acts against America's democratic system that were created to cause division and discord within our nation".

Even if Congress fails to act, the national security adviser said there should be "full waiver authorities" for the president because the challenges and threats posed to the USA occur in a "broader world that is very complex".

"An executive order that inevitably leaves the president broad discretion to decide whether to impose tough sanctions against those who attack our democracy is insufficient", Mark Warner, the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. Its findings would then be turned over to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Homeland Security, which would have another 45 days to determine what action to take.

Added Coats: 'We have seen signs of not just Russian Federation, but from China, from - capabilities potentially from Iran and even North Korea. "It's more than Russian Federation here that we're looking at", he said.

In a joint statement, senators Chris Van Hollen and Marco Rubio - who co-sponsored legislation that would mandate heavy sanctions for election meddling - seconded Warner's assessment. Congress passed a Russian Federation sanctions bill more than a year ago. Some lawmakers - including some Republicans as well as Democrats - have chafed at what they saw as the administration's reluctance to implement it. Trump signed the bill only after Congress passed it with huge majorities.