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Senate Democrats urge Trump administration to impose sanctions on Russia for election interference

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other senior Senate Democrats on Monday called on the Treasury and State departments to impose sanctions on Russian individuals found to be meddling in U.S. elections following reports of new interference efforts.

In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the Senate Democrats pointed to concerns about reports last week that Russian agents are already interfering in the lead-up to the 2020 U.S. elections in order to boost the campaigns of President Trump and Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). 

“In light of this information, we urge you to immediately and forcefully impose sanctions on the government of the Russian Federation, any Russian actors determined to be responsible for such interference, and those acting on their behalf or providing material or financial support for these election interference efforts,” Schumer and Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) wrote. 

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Brown serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, while Menendez is the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

The senators called on Mnuchin and Pompeo to use existing statutory powers to impose sanctions on individuals including Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian government officials. 

The senators warned that “doing anything less” than imposing sanctions on those interfering in U.S. elections 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 State and Treasury departments did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment on the letter. 

Senate Democrats have pushed hard for passage of legislation over the past years to strengthen U.S. elections against foreign interference but have been blocked by Republicans, who have cited concerns that the pieces of legislation would federalize elections, multiple times.

Election security has become a major source of concern since the 2016 elections, during which, according to U.S. intelligence agencies and the report compiled by former special counsel Robert Mueller, Russian agents launched a sweeping interference effort designed to favor Trump’s campaign.

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