Photo credit: Martin Jacobsen (CC-By-SA 3.0)

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida) announced new cosponsors of the bipartisan Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act, including U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Mark Warner (D-Virginia), Cory Gardner (R-Colorado), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Chris Coons (D-Delaware), Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington).

The DETER Act uses the threat of powerful sanctions to dissuade hostile foreign powers from meddling in our elections by ensuring that they know well in advance that the costs will outweigh the benefits. Grassley has been following the implementation of sanctions on Russia since the passage of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act signed into law by President Donald Trump on August 2, 2017. Grassley is co-chair of the Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus and recently wrote a Q&A about U.S.-Baltic relations and Russia sanctions. The DETER Act urges the European Union to enact similar legislation and to work with the United States to prevent future Russian meddling.

“While no vote tallies were changed in the 2016 presidential election, Russian cyber attacks and propaganda efforts undermined confidence in our democratic process. Vladimir Putin would like nothing more than to continue sowing discord and meddling in Western democracies without consequence. Passing this legislation would help improve Americans’ faith in their system of government and send an unmistakable signal to the Kremlin that it’s not worth trying it again,” Grassley said.

“In the face of unequivocal evidence that Russia worked to undermine our elections in 2016 and continued aggression from the Kremlin just four months until our next federal elections, we must take action. The DETER Act would send a clear signal that attacks on our democracy will not be tolerated. We’re proud to announce this new support from our colleagues, and we hope the Senate will take up this bipartisan legislation without delay,” Van Hollen said.

“The most meaningful measure that we can take right now to protect our democracy is to pass the bipartisan DETER Act, which imposes specific and serious sanctions against foreign countries that meddle in our future elections. We must make sure Putin understands that we will not overlook his hostilities, and he will face punishing consequences if he tries to interfere in our elections again,” Rubio said.

BACKGROUND

Reporting Requirements

  • The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) must issue to Congress a determination on whether any foreign government has interfered in that election within one month after every federal election.

Actions That Will Elicit Retaliation

  • A foreign government, or an agent acting on its behalf, cannot purchase advertisements to influence an election, including online ads.
  • A foreign government, or an agent acting on its behalf, cannot use social and traditional media to spread significant amounts of false information to Americans.
  • A foreign government, or an agent acting on its behalf, cannot hack and release or modify election and campaign infrastructure, including voter registration databases and campaign emails
  • A foreign government, or an agent acting on its behalf, cannot block or otherwise hinder access to elections infrastructure, such as websites providing information on polling locations.

Russia-specific Sanctions

  • If the DNI determines that the Kremlin has once again interfered in an American federal election, the bill mandates a set of severe sanctions that must be implemented within ten days of the DNI’s determination.
  • This includes sanctions on major sectors of the Russian economy, including finance, energy, defense, and metals and mining.
  • Every senior Russian political figure or oligarch, identified in the report required by the Countering America’s Adversaries Act of 2017, will be blacklisted from entering the United States and will have their assets blocked.
  • The Administration is also required to work with the European Union to enlist their support in adopting a sanctions regime to broaden the impact.

Preparing for Other Potential Attacks

  • The DNI has identified China, Iran, and North Korea as our other major foreign government cyber threats, and they may also seek to exploit American vulnerabilities in the next election cycle.
  • The Administration should present Congress with a plan for preventing interference in our elections for each of these countries, and any other foreign state of significant concern.

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