Senators urge trade sanctions for Russian election interference

Democratic Senate Leader Charles Schumer, along with Sens. Sharrod Brown and Robert Menendez, urged the White House to proceed with imposing sanctions against Russian government agencies and officials, and even President Vladimir Putin himself, based on recent U.S. intelligence reports that Russia is already interfering with the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential election.

“There is virtually no national security threat more serious than that posed by those who would systematically undermine confidence in, and the effective operation of, our democratic elections,” the senators wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Feb. 24.

The lawmakers, who also denounced President Trump’s dismissal of the U.S. intelligence reports against Russia, asked Pompeo and Mnuchin to use their authorities under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) to identify the perpetrators and immediately impose sanctions against them.

“It is long time past for the administration to send a direct, powerful and unmistakable 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,” the senators wrote.

Brown, D-Ohio, serves as ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, while Menendez, D-New Jersey, is the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The Russians were also alleged to have actively interfered in the 2016 presidential election by disseminating false information about candidates on Facebook to shape opinions of American voters.

U.S. intelligence has indicated that these cyberattacks originated with Russian intelligence agencies such as the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) and Federal Security Service (FSB) (formerly the KGB) and its Special Technology Center in St. Petersburg.

In recent years, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has blacklisted numerous Russian entities and individuals for violating U.S. sanctions. Often, they are placed on the on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List.

U.S. individuals and companies are generally prohibited from conducting business with individuals or entities on the SDN List. Additionally, any entities owned 50% or more in the aggregate by these listed individuals or entities are blocked.