WASHINGTON — The indictment of Russians for trying to sway the 2016 presidential campaigns led lawmakers from both parties Saturday to urge President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on Russia and to take steps to protect this year’s midterm elections.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians and three companies Friday detailed a well-funded campaign using fake and stolen identities on social media to “sow discord” in the election, confirming an intelligence assessment that Trump has long discounted.
Both Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate Democratic leader, and Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), the dean of New York Republicans in Congress, urged Trump to impose the sanctions Congress passed last year and to come up with a plan to counter Russian meddling in the 2018 election.
Congress last July passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea, singling out Russia’s use of social media and Twitter bots to disrupt the U.S. political system.
But Trump has yet to impose those sanctions on Russia. Instead, the Treasury Department published a list to name 114 senior political officials close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and 96 oligarchs worth $1 billion or more as a warning of possible future sanctions.
Trump acknowledged the indictments in a tweet Friday, but he did not mention sanctions on Twitter or in a White House statement that quoted him.
To protect against further meddling, Trump suggested Americans should tamp down their rhetoric and stop rumor-mongering, despite his own use of Twitter to attack opponents and sometimes post materials of questionable origin or veracity.
“We must unite as Americans to protect the integrity of our democracy and our elections,” he said.
The push on Trump to act, especially to prevent Russia’s social media attack on an election this year that could determine which party controls the two chambers of Congress, came from both sides of the aisle.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said nothing about the sanctions but said the indictment “underscores why we need to follow the facts and work to protect the integrity of future elections.”
But Schumer said, “Given these indictments, President Trump should implement the sanctions that Congress has passed immediately.”
Adding that Russia will continue to try to interfere, Schumer said: “The administration needs to be far more vigilant in protecting the 2018 elections, and alert the American public any time the Russians attempt to interfere.”
King, a member of both the House Intelligence and Homeland Security committees, urged the president to enforce the sanctions — perhaps by steps to ratchet up the pressure. He said publishing the names of Putin allies and oligarchs was a “good first step.”
King said Trump should hold an agencywide meeting to come up with a comprehensive plan to combat Russian interference in U.S. elections.
“He should meet with all the top people — the DIA, NSA, FBI, CIA — everybody as to what countermeasures we can take against Russia — not just defensive but offensive,” King said.
Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) said Putin is not only trying to interfere with American democracy but also in Europe and Eastern Europe with corruption and economic warfare.
“The president should enforce the sanctions that Congress has obligated him to,” he said.