State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert on Tuesday pushed back against claims that the Trump administration has not punished Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election, citing actions that the U.S. has taken over the last year.
A reporter asked Nauert at a press briefing whether last week's indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three companies for interfering in U.S. elections from 2014 through 2016 has "increased the sense of urgency" within the State Department to take actions in response to Russian meddling.
Nauert said that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson believes that Russia interfered in the 2016 election before she defended the administration's response to Moscow's actions.
"Let me remind you, the U.S. government and the State Department has[sic] done a lot when it comes to holding Russia accountable for its actions back in the 2016 elections," Nauert said.
The State Department spokeswoman then referenced the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which Congress passed last year in part to impose new sanctions on Russia. The administration has received criticism for not imposing sanctions that the legislation called for. The State and Treasury departments have said that the threat of sanctions has successfully disrupted and ended billions of dollars worth of deals in the Russian defense and intelligence sectors.
"We've talked a little bit about CAATSA," Nauert said. "A lot of you have said, ‘Oh my gosh, you haven't imposed those sanctions just yet.' Remember, Jan. 29 was the first day that we could impose sanctions."
Nauert then explained that U.S. diplomatic posts around the globe have been instructed to explain CAATSA to their host countries and the consequences they could face if they are involved in certain activities with Russia's defense and intelligence sectors.
"We have hundreds of people around the world who are working on sanctions activity each and every day," she added.
"I know you all want to see results overnight. We don't have sanctionable activity just yet, but we are working every day to try to determine if there is something that is taking place," Nauert said. "If there is something taking place, we will sanction those countries, those individuals, and those entities."
Nauert then scolded the media for ignoring other sanctions imposed by the United States that do not fall under the purview of CAATSA. She mentioned how the Trump administration continued the Obama administration's decision to ban Russian government employees from multiple "dachas" in the U.S., and how the current administration closed a Russian consulate in San Francisco in addition to Russian facilities in Washington, D.C. and New York.
Nauert also referenced the sanctions that exist due to Russian actions in Ukraine.
"So, please, this is not just CAATSA; it's a whole lot of other things that people tend to forget about," Nauert said.
Nauert said that Moscow is well aware of the Trump administration's position on Russian election interference. She added that private technology and social media companies in the U.S. need to "stand up and they need to be good American citizens" to help prevent such Russian activity.
Nauert also noted how an office within the State Department that focuses on cyber activity will be elevated to a bureau run by an assistant secretary of state.