Senate Democrats Urge Trump Admin to Sanction Russia Not China Over Election Interference

Senate Democrats Urge Trump Admin to Sanction Russia Not China Over Election Interference
Voters cast their ballots for the Florida presidential primary, in Bonita Springs, Fla., on March 17, 2020. (Elise Amendola/AP Photo)
Masooma Haq

A group of Senate Democrats on Thursday urged the Trump administration to impose sanctions on Russia for recent efforts by Russians to interfere in the upcoming U.S. elections.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), along with 10 other senators, sent a letter (pdf) to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin calling on him to impose sanctions on individuals linked to the Kremlin.

“Congress mandated a broad range of sanctions tools, and it is long past time for the administration to send a direct message to President Putin: the U.S. will respond immediately and forcefully to continuing election interference by the government of the Russian Federation and its surrogates, to punish, deter, and substantially increase the economic and political costs of such interference,” they wrote.

The letter was also signed by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
The lawmakers in their letter mentioned a recent statement by William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, which concluded that China, Russia, and Iran are attempting to interfere in the 2020 election. Some specific Russian entities are favoring President Donald Trump, while Chinese and Iranian actors are interfering in favor of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Evanina wrote that “Kremlin-linked actors” were trying to “boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television,” and that “pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach is spreading claims about corruption” to undermine Biden’s candidacy.

“We assess that China prefers that President Trump—whom Beijing sees as unpredictable—does not win reelection,” the Intelligence analysis stated.

The senators urged Mnuchin to use the authority given by a 2018 executive order to impose sanctions in the event of foreign interference in the U.S. election.

While Evanina emphasized election interference more broadly, the senators’ letter only addressed Russian interference and made no mention of China’s interference in the upcoming 2020 elections.

“As many of us have observed, there is virtually no national security threat more serious than that posed by those who would undermine confidence in, and the effective operation of, our democratic elections,” the senators added.

Democrats have voiced opposition this week to the decision by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe to terminate in-person election security congressional briefings and instead submit written documents.
Ratcliffe said on Fox News last week that he had been frequently briefing “not just the oversight committees but every member of Congress.”

But, he said, “within minutes of one of those briefings ending, a number of members of Congress went to a number of different outlets and leaked classified information for political purposes.”

He said that it was designed “to create a narrative that simply isn’t true, that somehow Russia is a greater national security threat than China.”

“I don’t mean to minimize Russia. They are a serious national security threat, but day in, day out, the threats that we face from China are significantly greater,” Ratcliffe said. “Anyone who says otherwise is just politicizing intelligence for their own narrative.”

On Tuesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Ratcliffe demanding that he reinstate the in-person hearings for Congress or face repercussions.

“We thus urge you to draw upon the conclusion of the Intelligence Community to identify and target for sanctions all those determined to be responsible for ongoing election interference,” the Senators wrote.

The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’s request for comment on the letter.