- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 14, 2017

Legislation proposed by House Democrats on Friday would authorize the State Department to further sanction individuals determined to have interfered in the U.S. election process as Congress considers additional ways to retaliate against Russia over allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential contest.

The SECURE Our Democracy Act introduced this week would let the federal government restrict the movements and monetary assets of foreign persons found to have unlawfully interfered in U.S. elections for federal office since 2015, taking specific aim at individuals involved in what the U.S. intelligence community has described as a Kremlin-led “influence campaign” conducted during the course of last year’s election.

“Our intelligence and law enforcement communities are unanimous in their assessment that Russia worked to rig our election. This is an attack on our country, and it cannot go unanswered,” co-author Rep. Eliot L. Engel of New York, ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said in a statement.

“If the criminals who interfered with our election get away with it, what’s to stop our enemies from doing the same thing the next time Americans cast their votes? This bill would mete out tough penalties to those who tried to undermine our democracy, and it would put any other would-be meddlers on notice: stay out of our business or face the consequences,” Mr. Engel said.

President Obama last month announced sanctions against several Russian officials believed to be involved in the hacking campaign in tandem with the expulsion of dozens of diplomats, much to Moscow’s chagrin. His administration has since released additional details to the public about the operation, however, spurring sponsors of the SECURE Our Democracy Act to demand further action against those believed responsible.

“The U.S. Intelligence Community recently shared an unclassified report detailing an unprecedented, deliberate and multi-faceted campaign by Russia to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. That should trouble every American,” said Rep. Gerald Connolly, a co-author of the bill.

“One of our most cherished institutions, democratic elections free of foreign interference, was attacked. Congress must come together in a bipartisan fashion to demonstrate that there is a cost to such attacks on American democratic institutions,” the Virginia Democrat said.

Specifically the bill would let the Secretary of State assemble a list of foreign persons and entities “involved in actions to unlawfully access, disrupt, misappropriate, influence or in any way alter information or information systems related to United States political parties, candidates in elections for Federal office or the administration of elections for Federal office” since Jan. 1, 2015. Anyone listed would be barred from entering the U.S. and have their financial assets in the country frozen.

More than 50 members of Congress have already signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, according to a list circulated by its authors, including several ranking committee members. A similar but separate measure aimed at further sanctioning Russia as a consequence of the hacking campaign was offered earlier this week in the Senate with bipartisan support.

“We have to respond to Vladimir Putin’s behavior, and if we don’t, it will continue unchecked,” Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, said at a press conference Tuesday on Capitol Hill touting that proposal. “We must act and we can act and we will act, in my view, in a bipartisan fashion.”

President-elect Donald Trump told reporters this week that he didn’t think Mr. Obama went too far by imposing sanctions against Russia last month, but deferred when asked if he’d roll them back upon taking office.

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