US Slaps Sanctions On Russia, Expels 35 Diplomats

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has imposed sanctions on Russian officials and intelligence services in retaliation for Russia’s interference in the U.S. presidential election by hacking American political sites and email accounts.

The State Department also has kicked out 35 Russian diplomats from its embassy in Washington and consulate in San Francisco, giving them and their families 72 hours to leave the U.S. The diplomats were declared persona non grata for acting in a “manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status.”

Obama said Russians will no longer have access to two Russian government-owned compounds in the United States, in Maryland and in New York.

Russian officials have denied the Obama administration’s accusation that the Russian government was trying to influence the U.S. presidential election.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia’s goal was to help Donald Trump win — an assessment Trump has dismissed as ridiculous.

uspected of playing a role in Russia’s alleged effort to sow discord in the U.S. election, according to the official, who did not have the authority to disclose the information and spoke on condition of anonymity.

President Barack Obama is expected to issue an executive order Thursday that lays out the various dimensions of the response, the official said. Russian diplomatic activities also are expected to be targeted, the official said.

The lawmakers on Wednesday reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the Baltics, saying the relationship with the three former Soviet states — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — “will not change” under the new administration.

“I predict there will be bipartisan sanctions coming that will hit Russia hard, particularly (President Vladimir) Putin as an individual,” Graham told reporters in Riga, the Latvian capital. He didn’t elaborate on possible sanctions.

 The U.S. has already sanctioned Russia over its annexation of Crimea and the conflict in Ukraine, but it could do more through the use of an April 2015 executive order allowing for the use of sanctions to combat cyberattacks.

A year after the order was issued, Democratic Party officials learned their systems were attacked after discovering malicious software on their computers.

But the executive order isn’t well suited to the Russian activities, said Stewart Baker, a partner specializing in cybersecurity for Steptoe & Johnson LLP. Baker said that order was primarily aimed at cyberespionage, such as spying by the Chinese military for commercial advantage. And additional sanctions may also escalate the conflict between the two countries, Baker said.

The 2015 order covers a response to attacks on critical infrastructure, and Klobuchar called on the administration to amend it to include election systems.

A presidential policy directive in 2013 identified 16 sectors that are considered critical infrastructure, including energy, financial services and health care. The U.S. Homeland Security Department is considering adding election systems to that list.

The designation places responsibilities on the secretary of homeland security to conduct comprehensive assessments of vulnerabilities and track as well as provide information on emerging and imminent threats that may affect critical infrastructure.

More important, in this case, the designation would allow for the first use of the 2015 executive order in response to a cyberattack against election systems.

And while Trump could reverse any amended or new order allowing for the U.S. to impose sanctions on entities involved in a cyberattack on election systems, “he would have a lot of explaining to do,” Klobuchar said. “The executive order gives tools to respond.”

Speaking to journalists at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate on Wednesday, Trump was not addressing the issue of sanctions, but said: “We don’t have the kind of security we need.” He added: “Nobody knows what’s going on.”

Trump said he has not spoken with senators calling for sanctions, but believes “we have to get on with our lives.”

Obama has ordered intelligence officials to conduct a broad review of the election-season cyberattacks to be completed before he leaves office.

Russia’s neighbors have long suffered the wrath of its hackers, whose actions have frequently complemented Moscow’s political and military aims. In 2014, Ukraine’s Central Election Commission was targeted by a pro-Russian hacking group.

The Russian Embassy did not respond to requests for comment.