Senators push sanctions to send Putin message on election interference

WASHINGTON, July 22 (Reuters) - A pair of prominent Republican U.S. senators said on Sunday that the United States needs to prepare new sanctions against Russia to discourage interference in upcoming elections.

Senator Lindsey Graham said additional sanctions must be teed up before President Donald Trump holds a second meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the U.S. leader came under heavy criticism for failing to confront Putin about interference in the 2016 election at a summit last Monday.

"You need to work with Congress to come up with new sanctions because Putin's not getting the message," Graham said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "We need new sanctions, heavy-handed sanctions, hanging over his head, and then meet with him."

Undaunted by the backlash in his own party to his first meeting, Trump invited Putin to a White House meeting sometime this fall. Congressional midterm elections will take place in November.

RELATED: Senate Intelligence Committee's review of Russian election meddling

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Senate Intelligence Committee's review of Russian election meddling
Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee gather ahead of a press conference previewing the committee's findings on Russian election meddling at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. The U.S. needs to do more -- and quickly -- to prevent a repeat of hacking into voting systems by Russians or others ahead of this year's midterm elections, the Senate Intelligence Committee warned. Photographer: Toya Sarno Jordan/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) arrives for a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing evaluating the Intelligence Community Assessment on "Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) speaks to the media as she leaves a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing evaluating the Intelligence Community Assessment on "Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) arrives for a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing evaluating the Intelligence Community Assessment on "Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks to the media as he arrives for a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing evaluating the Intelligence Community Assessment on "Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Former NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers departs from a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing evaluating the Intelligence Community Assessment on "Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper departs from a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing evaluating the Intelligence Community Assessment on "Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, center right, speaks during a press conference previewing the committee's findings on Russian election meddling at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. The U.S. needs to do more -- and quickly -- to prevent a repeat of hacking into voting systems by Russians or others ahead of this year's midterm elections, the Senate Intelligence Committee warned. Photographer: Toya Sarno Jordan/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, center, speaks during a press conference previewing the committee's findings on Russian election meddling at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. The U.S. needs to do more -- and quickly -- to prevent a repeat of hacking into voting systems by Russians or others ahead of this year's midterm elections, the Senate Intelligence Committee warned. Photographer: Toya Sarno Jordan/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, takes notes ahead of a press conference previewing the committee's findings on Russian election meddling at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. The U.S. needs to do more -- and quickly -- to prevent a repeat of hacking into voting systems by Russians or others ahead of this year's midterm elections, the Senate Intelligence Committee warned. Photographer: Toya Sarno Jordan/Bloomberg via Getty Images
US Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson (R) testify about election security during a Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, March 21, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Richard Burr (R-NC) and the committee's vice chairman Senator Mark Warner (D-VA)(2nd L) stand with members of the committee as they speak to the media about the committee's findings and recommendations on threats to election infrastructure on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Richard Burr (R-NC) and the committee's vice chairman Senator Mark Warner (D-VA)(R) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) stand before speaking about the committee's findings and recommendations on threats to election infrastructure on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, takes a bathroom break after nearly two hours before the Senate Intelligence Committee, as part of the panel?s ongoing investigation of allegations of Russia?s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, departs after a full day being interviewed by Senate Intelligence Committee staff, as part of the panel?s ongoing investigation of allegations of Russia?s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. December 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Senators look at a placard presented as evidence of Russian social media manipulation, during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing to answer questions related to Russian use of social media to influence U.S. elections, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 1, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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Senator Marco Rubio wants a vote on a bill called DETER that would impose new sanctions if U.S. intelligence officials determine Russia meddled in U.S. elections. Rubio co-authored the legislation with Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen, a bipartisan effort revived by the fallout of last week's summit.

"What I think is indisputable is that they did interfere and they will do so in the future," Rubio said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"If our bill passes and the director of national intelligence says they interfered in 2018, these very tough sanctions will hit them. So Putin knows going in, what the price of doing so is."

Putin has denied that Russia tried to influence the 2016 presidential election after the U.S. intelligence community concluded Russia interfered through cyber attacks and social media in a bid to boost Trump's candidacy.

Under pressure from Congress, which last year passed a tough sanctions law targeting Russia, the U.S. Treasury in April imposed sanctions on Russian officials and oligarchs for election meddling and "malign" activities.

The DETER Act would make sanctions more automatic. The U.S. director of national intelligence would be required to conclude if any foreign nations interfered in elections one month after Americans cast their votes, triggering strict sanctions within 10 days if interference was detected.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week identified the bill as a potential step Congress could take in the coming days to push back against Russia as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for sanctions and other deterrents.

But the U.S. oil and gas industry is lobbying against the bill due to worries that heightened sanctions could impact U.S. investments in Russia, congressional sources said. (Reporting by Pete Schroeder Editing by Mary Milliken and Lisa Shumaker)

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