Determined to show Russia the full wrath of the US government for its interference in the 2016 presidential election, a bevy of US Democratic and Republican senators Thursday pushed a bill that would, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham, "impose crushing sanctions and other measures" on the nation-state until Russian President Vladimir Putin puts a halt to meddling in US elections and cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure.
Graham also called for Russia to pull out from Ukraine and stop creating chaos in Syria. "The sanctions and other measures contained in this bill are the most hard-hitting ever imposed – and a direct result of Putin's continued desire to undermine American democracy," he said.
The legislation reiterates the US's support for NATO and would require a two-thirds vote to exit the organisation. Interference in elections would be grounds for refusing to allow immigration to the US.
The bill includes an International Cybercrime Prevention Act that would let prosecutors "shut down botnets and other digital infrastructure that can be used for a wide range of illegal activity" while the Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act would the Justice Department "pursue federal charges for the hacking of any voting system that is used in a federal election."
The bipartisan legislation would impose sanctions on political figures, oligarchs, and family members who "facilitate illicit and corrupt activities, directly or indirectly, on behalf of Vladimir Putin," on investment transactions related to Russian-owned or –supported energy projects and on "transactions relating to new sovereign debt of the Russian Federation." The sanctions would extend to any person in the Russian Federation who could "support or facilitate malicious cyber-activities."
The senators also called for a report on Putin's net worth and assets.
Sen. Bob Menendez, referred to the bill as the "next step in tightening the screws on the Kremlin" to bring Putin in line as reports emerge that Russia is continuing to muck around in the US midterm elections.
Microsoft last week recounted its efforts to help the US government fend off attempts by Russia to hack into the campaigns of three congressional candidates earlier this year.
Keying on candidates "who, because of their positions, might have been interesting targets from an espionage standpoint as well as an election disruption standpoint," Microsoft Vice President for Customer Security Tom Burt said the hackers volleyed phishing attacks at campaign staffers, hoping to lure them to a fake Microsoft domain and nick their credentials.
And on social media, the 2018 midterm elections are bearing an unfortunate resemblance to the 2016 presidential race – with Facebook earlier this week banning 32 pages and accounts that it found to be engaging in "coordinated inauthentic behavior."