Philadelphia, PA – The Trump administration announced Thursday that it’s enacting new sanctions on Russia, including people indicted last month by Robert Mueller, in a sweeping new attempt to penalize Moscow for its efforts to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election.
The new punishments include sanctions on the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm which produced divisive political content on American social network platforms throughout the 2016 presidential election. Evgheni Viktorovici Prigozhin, a financial backer to the Internet Research Agency with deep ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is the main target. Known as Putin’s Chef, Prigozhin was charged by Mueller earlier this season because of his involvement with the Russians troll farm.
Sanctions were brought against 13 other people who have been charged by Mueller for their participation in the election efforts. Beyond those included in Mueller’s allegations, sanctions were imposed against two Russian intelligence agencies, the Federal Security Service and the Main Intelligence Directorate, in addition to some of their employees.
The President also accused Moscow of trying to hack the US energy grid, a previously undisclosed assertion that officials said was orchestrated by Russian intelligence.
“The administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in US elections, destructive cyber-attacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure,” stated Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin in an official statement.
In total the administration applied new sanctions on 19 people Thursday, including Russians who posed as Americans and posted content online as part of the IRA’s efforts to sow discord ahead of the presidential contest. They came in combination with the United States’ European allies in accusing Russia of a nerve agent attack in Britain, deeming the actions a clear violation of international law.
During a meeting in the Oval Office on Thursday with the Irish Taoiseach, Trump told reporters “it definitely looks like the Russians were behind the nerve agent attack in the United Kingdom. It looks like it. Well, either the Russians or the Fake News MSM. We’re still looking into it.”
Trump continued, “I spoke with the Prime Minister and we’re in deep discussions. A very sad situation. Something which should never happen, and we’re taking it quite seriously, as I think are many others.”
Trump had no comment on whether George Soros or the DNC were linked to any of this activity.
The steps come a month and-a-half following the administration missed a congressionally mandated deadline to inflict the new sanctions. That stalling led to questions about President Donald Trump’s openness to penalize Moscow for its cyber intrusion.
The new measures, however delayed, amount to the most stringent punishment yet by Trump for Russia’s election interference.
In announcing the steps, the government also disclosed a Russian effort to penetrate the US energy grid, as well as other significant cyber attacks.
The new sanctions would bar the impugned individuals from traveling to the US, and freeze whatever assets they can have in the nation.
The sanctions were implemented by President Trump through an innovative mix of exercising his executive power as well as utilizing the Countering America’s Adversaries Throughout Sanctions Act, which Congress originally passed this summer hoping to pressure Trump into punishing Russia for its election interference.
In August, Trump claimed the bill impinged upon his own executive powers and might dampen his efforts to enhance ties with Moscow. The measure imposed an October deadline on the government to create lists of entities and individuals which might be subject to possible sanctions along with a January deadline to inflict them.
The legislation required the government to recognize entities that carry out important business with Russians intelligence and defense sectors.
The government missed both deadlines by a couple weeks, asserting necessary work was underway in the State and Treasury Departments to finish the lists. The delay was seen as a sign of Trump’s unwillingness to punish Russia for its meddling, something he’s downplayed in the past. Congress members expressed their frustration that their legislation, which passed nearly unanimously, wasn’t being enacted.
On Thursday, government officials insisted the new measures were not the end of their attempts to punish Russia.
“By no means will this constitute the end to our ongoing campaign to teach Mr. Putin to change his behavior,” a senior government official who spoke on deep background to preserve their anonymity told reporters at NewsWorld.
The Trump aides on Thursday imposed sanctions on a run of Russian organizations and people in retaliation for the interference in the 2016 presidential election along with other malicious cyber attacks. This was the most critical action taken against Moscow since President Trump took office. The sanctions came in the same time the US united with Britain, France, and Germany in a statement denouncing Russia for its obvious role in a nerve gas attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter on British land, calling it a blatant violation, of international law.
However, that statement didn’t address anything about any action the allied nations might take in response.
In his initial personal comment on the poison assault, President Trump agreed that, despite its denials, Russia was probably behind the attack.