(CNSNews.com) - In an executive order signed Wednesday, President Trump declared a national emergency to deal with the threat of "foreign interference" in the nation's "free and open political system."
The order says people located outside the U.S. increasingly are able to "interfere or undermine public confidence" in U.S. elections by hacking into election and campaign infrastructure -- or by distributing propaganda and disinformation.
The situation "constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States," the order said.
"Although there has been no evidence of a foreign power altering the outcome or vote tabulation in any United States election, foreign powers have historically sought to exploit America’s free and open political system. In recent years, the proliferation of digital devices and internet-based communications has created significant vulnerabilities and magnified the scope and intensity of the threat of foreign interference, as illustrated in the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment.
"I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with this threat," said the order signed by Trump.
The president is ordering the Director of National Intelligence and other agency heads to assess, within 45 days of an election, the extent of any foreign interference in the election.
"The assessment shall identify, to the maximum extent ascertainable, the nature of any foreign interference and any methods employed to execute it, the persons involved, and the foreign government or governments that authorized, directed, sponsored, or supported it. The Director of National Intelligence shall deliver this assessment and appropriate supporting information to the President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security."
The order also directs the Secretary of State and the Treasury Secretary to recommend what additional sanctions against foreign persons may be appropriate if foreign interference is discovered.
"Any recommended sanctions shall be appropriately calibrated to the scope of the foreign interference identified," the order says.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, National Security Adviser John Bolton said the executive order does not specify any particular country (Russia!) "because as we've said on a number of occasions, threats to the integrity of the election process come from a number of sources.
"We felt it was important to demonstrate that the president has taken command of this issue, that it's something he cares deeply about, that the integrity of our elections and our constitutional process are a high priority to him," Bolton added.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told reporters the executive order is intended to assure Americans "that we are doing every possible thing we can -- first of all, to prevent any interference with our election, to report on anything we see between now and the election, but then to do a full assessment after the election to assure the American people just exactly what may have happened or may not have happened. And if we see something has happened, then it is going to be an automatic response to that. That's the gist of where we are."
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the order mandating sanctions against election meddlers sends a "clear signal that the U.S. government will not tolerate interference of any kind and will use every tool at our disposal to protect our democratic process."
“We do not need to wait for another interference attempt to know the threat is real and evolving," Nielsen said.
"DHS is already working closely with state and local election officials to ensure all Americans have confidence in our elections. Election officials in all 50 states and over 1,000 local jurisdictions are now working with DHS in some capacity to secure their election systems."