Trump administration plans sanctions aimed at Russian cyber meddling

The Trump administration could impose new sanctions on Russian entities as soon as next week, a senior administration official told CNN. Among the entities being considered for sanctions is the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-linked Russian troll group, the official said.

The Internet Research Agency was at the heart of a federal indictment aimed at 13 Russian individuals announced last month by the Justice Department. Of the 13 indicted, 12 worked for the Internet Research Agency, setting up bogus social media accounts aimed at sowing discord in the 2016 American election, US officials alleged.

“If they have been indicted, they should be looked at” for sanctions, the senior administration official said.

As for the timing of the sanctions, the official said the measures are expected to be announced as early as next week. That timetable could slide, the official cautioned, as the administration is working to coordinate the measures through the State and Treasury departments.

Briefed on the administration’s plans for Russia, the senior administration official also said the White House is reviewing plans for a strategy to disrupt Kremlin cyber operations.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers Tuesday that he expects to announce sanctions on Russia in the “next several weeks.”

Mnuchin has repeatedly said that sanctions are coming. He narrowed the time frame during a hearing Tuesday: “I expect, in the next several weeks, we will be moving forward with sanctions on Russia as result of the act. So I — I can assure you that, both in my discussions with the President — he is fully supportive of the work we’re doing, and we have a large team working on it as we speak.”

In a separate hearing at the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, pressed Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats on how the US is not using “every tool we can to effectively deter Russia from undermining our democracy,” referring to sanctions.

Coats replied, “Secretary Mnuchin’s going to be announcing those, I believe, within a week.”

Democrats have been demanding that the administration impose sanctions that were authorized by Congress last year as punishment for Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election.

At a news conference Tuesday, President Donald Trump vowed his administration will “counteract” any attempts to meddle in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.

“We’ll counteract whatever they do. We’ll counteract it very strongly,” Trump said.