Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA)
Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) introduced the Safeguarding Elections by Countering Unchallenged Russian Efforts (SECURE) Act, a bill to end Russian interference in U.S. elections. While the Trump administration has acknowledged that the Russian government has interfered in past U.S. elections, and is working to interfere in the current 2020 election, it has taken no meaningful action to punish Russia for this activity. The SECURE Act will correct for this failure by imposing significant economic sanctions which target the government of Russia directly. This legislation is modeled closely after the 2019 Sherman-Waters amendment to the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act, an amendment which was passed unanimously by the House.
In absence of any meaningful response by the United States, the SECURE Act will impose significant but targeted economic sanctions on the Russian government, dramatically limiting its access to global debt markets. This legislation will prohibit U.S. firms and individuals from lending to Russia, primarily by preventing the purchase of newly issued Russian government bonds and other debt instruments. This will cut off Russia from hundreds of billions of dollars of investor capital and have a meaningful impact on the country’s cost of borrowing. It will also ensure that Americans and U.S. financial institutions are not helping to finance Russian election interference.
“Donald Trump and his Administration continue to refuse to provide any meaningful response to Russian efforts to undermine our democracy,” said Congressman Sherman. “Every day that the Administration fails to act is an invitation to Vladimir Putin to continue interfering in our elections. There is no more time to wait. We must impose significant and immediate sanctions on the government of Russia until this activity ends.”
The Director of the FBI, the U.S. Treasury Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) have each recently acknowledge that Russia is seeking to influence and interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. A January 6, 2017 report produced by the CIA, FBI, and NSA and published by the ODNI has also found that “Russian operations to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations.”
Since 2016, the State Department and Treasury have engaged in an extremely limited use of sanctions that directly target Russian officials and the Russian government for election interference. On September 30, 2019, the Treasury announced new sanctions in response to Russian interference in the 2018 U.S. midterm election. However, rather than targeting Russian officials, these sanctions targeted the Internet Research Agency, a private company with ties to the Kremlin, and individuals involved with the company. The Treasury issued additional sanctions on September 10, 2020, for interference in the current election, but once again failed to directly target the Russian government or any Russian officials.
The SECURE Act will make it obvious to Russian President Vladimir Putin that there is a price to pay for his malign efforts to undermine U.S. democracy. This legislation also includes a simple mechanism for these sanctions to be lifted and remain lifted if after each election cycle, beginning in 2022, the administration determines Russia did not interfere. This creates a clear incentive for Russia and Vladimir Putin to cease all efforts to influence U.S. elections.