Feb 24, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Democrats demand new Russia sanctions over 2020 election interference

Putin and Trump. Photo: Kremlin Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Senate Democratic leaders will send a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday afternoon demanding they sanction Russia — and potentially Russian President Vladimir Putin himself — for attempting to influence the 2020 presidential election.

Why it matters: The letter follows reports that a senior intelligence official briefed Congress that Russia is again interfering in the November election to help Trump. White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien repeatedly rejected that assessment on Sunday, and CNN later reported that the briefer may have overstated the intelligence community's evidence about Russia's goals.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders told reporters Friday that U.S. intelligence officials briefed him "about a month ago" on Russia's attempts to boost his campaign in the Democratic primary.

  • Trump seized on this in a tweet over the weekend, suggesting Democrats should call on former special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Sanders' triumph in Nevada on Saturday.
  • "Are any Democrat operatives, the DNC, or Crooked Hillary Clinton, blaming Russia, Russia, Russia for the Bernie Sanders win in Nevada. If so I suggest calling Bob Mueller & the 13 Angry Democrats to do a new Mueller Report, Democrat Edition. Bob will get to the bottom of it!" Trump tweeted.

Details: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Foreign Relations Ranking Member Bob Menendez and Sen. Sherrod Brown urge Pompeo and Mnuchin in the letter "to identify and target for sanctions all those determined to be responsible for ongoing elections interference, including President Putin."

  • "Doing anything less would be an abdication of your responsibility to protect and defend the US from this serious threat to our national security, and to the integrity of our electoral process," the letter reads.

Full letter:

Go deeper

Sanders to Putin: You won't interfere in any more elections if I'm president

Sen. Bernie Sanders sent a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the debate stage Tuesday, stating, "If I'm president of the United States, trust me, you're not going to interfere in any more American elections."

The big picture: It was unveiled last week that Russia has been interfering to boost Sanders' campaigns in an apparent attempt to strengthen President Trump's bid for re-election. Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg said, "Vladimir Putin thinks that Donald Trump should be president of the United States, and that's why Russia is helping [Sanders] get elected."

Fiona Hill: Putin has the U.S. "exactly where he wants us"

Fiona Hill testifies in impeachment inquiry of President Trump on Nov. 21, 2019. Photo: Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Fiona Hill, the former top Russia expert on the National Security Council, said that Russian President Vladimir Putin has the U.S. "feeling vulnerable, he's got us feeling on edge, and he's got us questioning the legitimacy of our own systems" in a "60 Minutes" interview airing on Sunday.

The big picture: The nation's top election-security official warned the House Intelligence Committee last month that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election to help President Trump get re-elected and to continue attempting to sow discord among the U.S. electorate.

Trump campaign sues New York Times for libel over opinion article

Photo: Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The Trump campaign is suing the New York Times for libel over an opinion article that claimed the campaign had an "overarching deal" with Russian President Vladimir Putin to trade election help for a "new pro-Russian foreign policy."

Why it matters: Throughout his career in business and politics, President Trump has often threatened to sue for libel but rarely followed through. In order for a public official to successfully sue for libel, they must be able to prove that the defendant acted with "actual malice" — a high bar for most lawsuits.