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U.S. sanctions Russians over attempted interference in 2018 elections

Misinformation threats go beyond Russia

The Trump administration has issued new sanctions against Russia over attempted interference in the 2018 midterm elections, a move that comes as the president faces increased pressure from an impeachment inquiry over his call with Ukraine's president. The new sanctions are the first imposed under an executive order the president signed a year ago warning countries against interfering in elections. 

Specifically, the sanctions by the Treasury Department apply to four entities and seven individuals, including the "private planes, yacht, and associated front companies of Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the Russian financier behind the Internet Research Agency and its attempts to subvert American democratic processes," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement. The Internet Research Agency was the entity behind the Russian government's disinformation campaign in the 2016 campaign, according to the U.S. intelligence community.

"We have been clear: We will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in his own statement. "The United States will continue to push back against malign actors who seek to subvert our democratic processes and we will not hesitate to impose further costs on Russia for its destabilizing and unacceptable activities."

The Treasury Department said there was "no indication that foreign actors were able to compromise election infrastructure that would have prevented voting, changed vote counts, or disrupted the tallying of votes" in the 2018 elections.

The sanctions come two days after The Washington Post reported Mr. Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in 2017 he wasn't concerned about the Kremlin's interference in the 2016 presidential election. The sanctions also come after Mr. Trump's former homeland security adviser Tom Bossert told The New York Times on Sunday that he advised the president there was no reason to believe the theory that Ukraine, not Russia, intervened in the 2016 presidential election. 

The Treasury Department said the sanctions are also aimed at safeguarding the democratic process from adversaries, namely Russia, Iran and China, that might be trying to influence the 2020 presidential election cycle. 

Former director of national intelligence Dan Coats, former special counsel Robert Mueller and other intelligence officials have insisted Russia is still trying to interfere in U.S. elections, although Mr. Trump publicly has done little to emphasize his concern over the matter. In August, he mocked a reporter who asked him whether he raised the issue of ongoing interference during a recent phone call with Putin. 

"You don't really believe this. Do you believe this?" Mr. Trump responded. 

Pressed again whether he raised the matter with Putin the day before, Mr. Trump said, "We didn't talk about that." 

Mr. Trump spent chunks of his weekend tweeting and retweeting defenses of his call with Ukraine's president in which he pressed him to investigate the former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Republicans have largely declined to rebuke the president, and all but a few Democrats support an impeachment probe. 

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