Trump administration sanctions Russians over election interference

The Trump administration’s Department of the Treasury has imposed sanctions on 19 Russian individuals (including the 13 indicted in the Mueller inquiry) and 5 Russian entities over interference in the 2016 US elections.

Fox News: Trump administration sanctions Russians for interfering in 2016 elections

“These targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The sanctions mean all property of these individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked. United States people are also prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

The Treasury Department said the sanctions are meant to counter Russia’s destabilizing activities, including its interference in the 2016 election and its destructive cyber-attacks. The department cited the NotPetya attack, a cyber-attack the White House and the British government have attributed to the Russian military.

Last month, 13 Russians and three Russian companies were indicted in Mueller’s probe, accused of a sophisticated plot to wage “information warfare” against the U.S.

The three entities are Internet Research Agency LLC, Concord Management and Consulting LLC and Concord Catering.

The sanctions also target two entities and six individuals accused of being cyber actors operating on behalf of the Russian government.

Those entities are the Federal Security Service and the Main Intelligence Directorate.

And it goes further than election interference.

The Trump administration also accused Russia on Thursday of a concerted, ongoing operation to hack and spy on the U.S. energy grid and other critical infrastructure.

U.S. national security officials said the FBI, the Homeland Security Department and American intelligence agencies determined that Russian intelligence and others were behind the attacks on the energy sector.

The officials said the Russians deliberately chose U.S. energy industry targets, obtaining access to computer systems and then conducting “network reconnaissance” of industrial control systems that run American factories and the electricity grid.

The accusations and accompanying sanctions are some of the strongest actions to date by the administration to punish Russia for hacking and other efforts to sow discord in the American democracy.

I didn’t see this coming. In the past Trump has repeatedly tried to downplay Russian interference in the election.

This is on top of the US joining the UK and Germany over the alleged Russian use of a nerve gas attack in Salisbury, England.

In a joint statement Thursday, President Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May said they “abhor” the attack against Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury on March 4. A police officer who came to the pair’s aid was also sickened.

“This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War,” the statement said.

The big question now must be how Russia might react.

It will also be of interest how Trump reacts to the sanctions. He has commented on the nerve gas issue – U.S. hits Russians with sanctions for election meddling, cyber attacks (Reuters):

Trump told reporters during a White House event with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar that “it certainly looks like the Russians were behind” the use of a nerve agent to attack Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent in England. Trump called it “something that should never, ever happen, and we’re taking it very seriously, as I think are many others.”

But Trump has claimed he one the election on his merits and without Russian assistance.

Trump has frequently questioned a January 2017 finding by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 campaign using hacking and propaganda in an effort eventually aimed at tilting the race in Trump’s favor. Russia denies interfering in the election.

But Mnuchin was unequivocal in saying that Thursday’s Treasury action “counters Russia’s continuing destabilizing activities, ranging from interference in the 2016 election to conducting destructive cyber-attacks.”

Both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress, which nearly unanimously passed a new sanctions bill against Russia last summer, had criticized Trump for not punishing Moscow. The Trump administration in January did not announce sanctions against Russia, for now, under the new law.

Republican Ed Royce, chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, welcomed the new sanctions as an important step. “But more must be done,” Royce said in a statement, promising that his committee would “keep pushing to counter Russian aggression.”

A senior administration official told Reuters that Trump, who campaigned on warmer ties with Putin, has grown exasperated with Russian activity.

That seems like a major change of direction for Trump.

 

 

11 Comments

  1. chrism56

     /  March 16, 2018

    The change in behavior could be that the West has finally realized what Russia is up to. Russia has showed no compunctions about its behavior in the West, killing Putin’s enemies with no real consequences. That is why they are so upset the Mrs May has expelled their spies.
    http://observer.com/2018/03/theresa-may-announces-measures-against-russia-for-sergei-skripal-case/

  2. Joe Bloggs

     /  March 16, 2018

    Trump basically went through the sanctions Congress passed and did a “pick and choose”. These aren’t actually “new” sanctions, but a selection of items Congress passed last year. He still hasn’t fully implemented the sanctions that were passed overwhelmingly by Congress last year.

    The sanctions bill passed by Congress required the administration to show cause if they chose not to implement the sanctions, but since the poisoning of Skripal in the UK, there will be increased pressure, so trump has attempted to find the most minimal course of action that he could to prevent Congress from over-riding him and mandating the full sanctions be imposed.

    • Joe Bloggs

       /  March 16, 2018

      It appears that trump’s private company was actively negotiating a business deal in Moscow with a sanctioned Russian bank during the 2016 election campaign…

      …not long before he personally denied that he ever had business dealings with Russia: “nothing to do with Russia – no deals, no loans, no nothing”.

      • Zedd

         /  March 16, 2018

        Mr T should beware Mr P might just call him bluff..
        IF the whispers are true.. then Look out Mr T.. your future is tenuous at best !

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  March 16, 2018

          Trump in this instance is ‘Satan rebuking sin with a vengeance’ as I forget who said.

  3. David

     /  March 16, 2018

    And we remain an outlier, thanks Winston and Jacinda perhaps for an encore we can praise Putin for the work he is carrying out in Syria on top of annexing Crimea and shooting down passenger jets.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  March 16, 2018

      I am eternally glad to be living here at the bottom of the world.

      • Gezza

         /  March 16, 2018

        Ok with me – I live in Welly & that’s not the world’s bum.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  March 17, 2018

          I wouldn’t care if it was, I’d rather be here than in the US or Russia. Or in a lot of places.

  4. Joe Bloggs

     /  March 16, 2018

    The utter bastards: White House and State Department officials conspired with prominent conservatives, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to purge the State Department of staffers they viewed as insufficiently loyal to trump.

    https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4412424-2018-03-15-EEC-EEngel-to-WH-amp-State.html#document/p1