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Senator Collins Cosponsors Bipartisan Bill to Deter Foreign Interference in American Elections

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), a member of the Intelligence Committee, cosponsored the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act. The bipartisan legislation sends a powerful message to any foreign nation seeking to disrupt our elections that if it attacks American candidates, campaigns, or voting infrastructure, it will face severe consequences.


“We know for certain that the Russians were relentless in their efforts to meddle in the 2016 elections,” said Senator Collins.  “In an effort to help secure our elections and defend this cornerstone of our democracy, our bipartisan bill would swiftly impose harsh sanctions on Russia if the Director of National Intelligence determines that it has attempted to influence or undermine faith in our electoral process again.”


The DETER Act, which was introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), uses key national security tools to dissuade hostile foreign powers from meddling in our elections.  In addition to requiring sanctions to be imposed on Russia if the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) confirms that it has interfered in a U.S. election, the bill would direct the Administration to develop a plan to prevent interference by any foreign country in the future. 


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 to 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.


Specifically, the DETER Act’s provisions include:


Reporting Requirements


  • The 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 identify any senior Russian political figure or oligarch that knowingly contributed to interference in a United States election. 


List of Actions That Will Elicit Retaliation


  • A foreign government, or an agent acting on its behalf, cannot purchase advertisements to influence an election, including online ads.


  • A foreign government, or an agent acting on its behalf, cannot use social and traditional media to spread information to Americans under a false identity.


  • A foreign government, or an agent acting on its behalf, cannot hack and release or modify election and campaign infrastructure, including voter registration databases and campaign emails.


  • A foreign government, or an agent acting on its behalf, cannot block or otherwise hinder access to elections infrastructure, such as websites providing information on polling locations.


Russia-Specific Sanctions


  • 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.


Plan to Prepare 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 plan for preventing interference in our elections for each of these countries and any other foreign state of significant concern.