While praising the Trump Administration’s move on Thursday to impose sanctions on 19 Russians who have been accused of interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections, lawmakers in both parties said President Donald Trump needs to do even more to punish Moscow for election meddling, mainly to send a message that no type of repeat in the 2018 mid-term elections will be tolerated by the United States.
“We need to do more,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). “Interference in our elections and active measures to sow divisions and chaos inside our country must be met with swift and severe consequences.
The list of those targeted included the Internet Research Agency – the Russian troll farm included in a recent indictment by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into 2016 election meddling.
“Today’s sanctions are welcome news,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), who echoed Rubio in argued that the U.S. must show that election meddling is “unacceptable and will have consequences.”
“But more must be done,” said Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as GOP leaders publicly said they were not pleased by the delay in issuing these new sanctions, over a month after a deadline which had been set by Congress.
“I have long argued Vladimir Putin is not – and has never been – America’s friend,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Those Republican voices were joined by Democrats, who also argued that the White House has only done the bare minimum when it comes to Russia.
“Trump may regard Mueller’s investigation as a hoax, but these sanctions show his own Treasury Department disagrees,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), referring to the Special Counsel’s probe, part of which is looking into any links between Russia and the Trump Campaign in 2016.
“With the midterm elections fast approaching, the Administration needs to step it up, now, if we have any hope of deterring Russian meddling in 2018,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), making the case for more economic penalties on Moscow.
The announcement of the new sanctions by the Treasury Department also came as the United States joined with British officials to condemn the attack on an ex-Russian spy with the use of nerve agent.
In the Oval Office, President Trump made his first public comment tying that attack to Moscow.
In other Russia-related stories, the Associated Press reported that a Russian government hacking operation had been targeting smaller U.S. companies in a variety of areas by using spear-phishing attacks, going after businesses in the water, aviation, construction, manufacturing and nuclear sectors.
And finally, the White House had no comment on reports that Special Counsel Mueller had sent a subpoena to the Trump Organization about Russia, a move that President Trump had once indicated would cross a ‘red line.’
“The President believes very strongly there was no collusion,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “For questions about the Trump Organization, I would refer you to them.”