WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) announced new cosponsors of bipartisan Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act: Senators Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).
The legislation sends a powerful message to Russia and any other foreign actor seeking to disrupt our elections: if you attack American candidates, campaigns, or voting infrastructure, you will face severe consequences. 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.
“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,” said Senator Van Hollen. “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.”
“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,” said Senator Rubio.
“We have to do everything we can to protect our elections from foreign interference. The 2018 midterm elections are just around the corner, and Director National Intelligence Dan Coats just recently cautioned that the ‘warning lights are blinking red again.’ On the heels of the President’s weak performance in Helsinki, it’s critical that we make clear to Putin that interference in our democratic process will not be tolerated. I thank Senator Van Hollen and Senator Rubio for their leadership on this issue,” said Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Warner.
“As the U.S. intelligence services have reported, it is an incontrovertible fact that Russia sought to influence the 2016 elections in the United States – a fact that President Putin openly confirmed during the recent U.S.-Russia summit in Helsinki,” Senator Gardner said. “We know Russia will try again, so we must also be forward thinking to prevent this assault on our democracy from ever happening again. As we get closer to our next elections, we should be making it clear to the KGB thug Vladimir Putin, and anyone else who dares meddle in our elections, that this type of behavior will never be tolerated and will be met with severe and immediate consequences.”
“Russia’s interference in our elections cannot be dismissed or ignored. Congress has a responsibility to take action and impose costs on those who would attack American democracy,” said Senator Baldwin. “This bipartisan effort puts country over party, stands up for our democracy and will send a powerful message to bad actors like Putin’s Russia and other adversarial nations that future attacks on our elections will be met with severe consequences.”
“Our Intelligence Community has made it clear that Russia interfered in our 2016 elections and will do so again - unless we take actions to prevent it,” said Senator Coons. “The DETER Act will impose penalties on Russia – or any other adversary – that seeks to undermine our democratic processes and traditions. I commend Senator Rubio and Senator Van Hollen for introducing this bill and I look forward to working with them to pass it into law.”
“Vladimir Putin wants to make the Soviet Union great again and he hates the very stuff that makes America great – our First Amendment freedoms and our free and fair elections,” said Senator Sasse. “Russia is coming back in 2018, 2020, and 2022 to sow chaos and distrust. We cannot fall asleep on the watch. These attacks deserve consequences -- and sanctions send a strong message.
“The conclusion of American intelligence agencies is crystal clear: Russian interference in our elections is a fact. We must take immediate action to protect and secure our elections from future meddling by Russia or anyone else. Deterring foreign enemies from attacking our election systems and other critical infrastructure is just the first step we must take to protect our national security and democratic institutions,” said Senator Cantwell.
Senator Grassley said, “While no vote tallies were changed in the 2016 presidential election, Russian cyberattacks 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.”
· 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.
· 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 implement 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.