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Rubio, Van Hollen Reintroduce the DETER Act
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) today reintroduced an updated version of the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines Act (DETER Act). The legislation, which gained strong momentum last Congress, sends a clear and powerful message to Russia and any other foreign actors seeking to disrupt our elections: If you attack American candidates, campaigns, or voting infrastructure, you will face swift and severe consequences. In addition to the clear interference by Moscow in our 2016 elections, defense officials also report that the Kremlin tried to hack our 2018 elections. The bill’s introduction comes as NATO’s secretary general addresses a rare joint session of Congress this week about the importance of the alliance as it marks its 70th anniversary.
“Because the only thing that Vladimir Putin understands is deterrence, the DETER Act of 2019 makes it crystal clear to Russia and other hostile governments that the United States will respond immediately and overwhelmingly to future attempts to interfere in or undermine our elections,” Rubio said. “I urge Congress to come together and decisively protect our elections and the American people for years to come against foreign adversaries that are determined to tear us down and divide us in order to build themselves up.”
“The one clear message we can all take away from the Mueller Report – along with the consensus of our intelligence chiefs – is that Russia worked to manipulate the American people and undermine our democratic process in 2016. As we head into the 2020 election cycle, we must be vigilant against attacks from the Kremlin or anyone who seeks to follow their example,” Van Hollen said. “The focus of our legislation is to prevent any future efforts to manipulate our elections. By making it clear in advance that attempts to interfere in our elections will be met with swift, harsh consequences, we can deter hostile foreign powers from taking future interference – but we must act now.”
In September 2018, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that was loosely modeled after the DETER Act, but instead outlines possible discretionary sanctions in response future foreign interference in U.S. elections. In contrast, the 2019 DETER Act imposes much stronger mandatory sanctions, but also provides waivers to give the Executive Branch appropriate flexibility.
- The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) must issue to Congress a determination on whether any foreign government has interfered in that election within 60 days after every federal election. The DNI must also provide identify any senior Russian political figure or oligarch that knowingly contributed to interference in a United States election.
Actions That Will Elicit Retaliation
- A foreign government, or an agent acting on its behalf, cannot undertake the following actions with the intent to influence an election’s outcome:
- purchase advertisements to influence an election, including online ads
- use social and traditional media to spread information to Americans under a false identity
- hack and release or modify election and campaign infrastructure, including voter registration databases and campaign emails
- 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 implemented within 30 days of the DNI’s determination.
- This includes sanctions on major sectors of the Russian economy, including finance, energy, and defense.
- Every senior Russian political figure or oligarch, identified by the DNI in his determination to Congress, 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 strategy preventing interference in our elections for each of these countries and any other foreign state of significant concern.