The Obama administration is in the process of finalizing a package of economic sanctions against Russia, The Washington Post reported Tuesday evening, in promised retaliation for the Kremlin's attempts to interfere in the American presidential election. The response is also expected to include diplomatic censure and covert cyber reprisal, and a formal announcement of Washington's reaction could come before the new year.
Because the retaliation package will be implemented via executive order, of chief concern to the current administration is securing the measures against modification by President-elect Donald Trump, who has taken a friendly stance toward Moscow and rejects allegations of Russian hacking (as does Russia herself). "Part of the goal here is to make sure that we have as much of the record public or communicated to Congress in a form that would be difficult to simply walk back," a senior administration official told the Post.
The executive order is also on shaky legal ground given that the Democratic National Committee, the primary hacking victim, is not a government body, and the hacks did not result in "harm to critical infrastructure or the theft of commercial secrets," the two categories for which a 2015 executive order claimed presidential response authority following cyberattacks. To make this response legal, explains Zachary Goldman, a New York University law professor with expertise in terrorism and security, the White House will "need to engage in some legal acrobatics to fit the DNC hack into an existing authority, or they need to write a new authority."