In his first move against Russia for the country’s involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, President Trump issued sanctions against Russian individuals Thursday. The sanctions target 19 individuals and 5 Russian entities who were involved in cyberhacking and other online election interference.
“The administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in U.S. elections, destructive cyberattacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “These targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attack emanating from Russia.”
Although the administration is being praised for finally making a move in response to Russia’s involvement in the U.S. elections, many say the sanctions are still not enough, as they do not impact oligarchs or close associates of Russian president Vladimir Putin. And as midterm elections draw near, concern about more Russian meddling grows.
Before former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired on March 13th, he warned of Russian involvement in the coming November elections. “The point is that if their intention is to interfere, they’re going to find ways to do that,” Tillerson told Fox News. “I think it’s important we just continue to say to Russia, look, you think we don’t see what you’re doing. We do see it, and you need to stop.” Tillerson repeated that message in his farewell speech after his dismissal.
Mike Pompeo, the current director of the CIA and Trump’s pick to replace Tillerson, has expressed similar concerns, saying he has “every expectation that they will continue to try” to interfere in the 2018 elections.
Trump has repeatedly tried to distance himself from the Russian election involvement, as U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller continues to investigate whether the Trump campaign was involved as well, and whether there may be evidence of collusion.
The president and his administration have been highly criticized for their lack of action in punishing Russia, including having used $0 of the $120 million granted by the State Department in 2016 for that purpose.