The Obama administration is poised to hit Russia with new sanctions in response to alleged Russian hacking and interference in the November U.S. presidential elections.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the White House had been debating how to quickly punish Russia using an executive order that President Barack Obama signed last year. That executive order allows the president to levy economic sanctions against hackers based overseas who are beyond the reach of law enforcement.

The order specifically seeks to sanction those who threaten national security, infrastructure or the U.S. economy. It allows the government to freeze any assets held by the individuals in American banks or other financial institutions. It also prevents all Americans from doing business with those individuals. The government also can place a visa ban on these people.

But the Post reported that the executive order could not be used as written because it did not cover cyberattacks aimed at influencing the electoral system. The Post said the White House was working on finding a way to use the order against the Russians by either declaring the electoral system part of the nation’s critical infrastructure or amending the order to include a new threat.

The Obama administration would like the sanctions to be in place before the president leaves office in a little more than three weeks.

Russian response

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry has condemned the prospect of new sanctions.

“To be honest, we are already tired of the lies about ‘Russian hackers’ which continue to emanate from the very top of the U.S. (government),” says a statement issued Wednesday by the ministry’s spokesperson Maria Zakharova.

“The Obama administration has launched this disinformation (campaign) half a year ago in an attempt to give a boost to its preferred candidate in the November presidential elections, and not having achieved the result it was seeking, it is looking for an excuse for its own failure, thus dealing a double blow to Russian-American relations,” the statement added.

But even if the sanctions are successfully imposed, it remains unclear whether they would be maintained by the Trump administration after it takes office on January 20.

The U.S. has already imposed a set of sanctions on Russia following its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and for its role in the separatist conflict in the country’s east.

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