On Sept. 12, 2018, President Donald Trump issued an executive order in which he declared a national emergency over the prospect of foreign interference in U.S. elections.
Trump stated that foreign states, individuals and organizations are known to be able to “interfere in or undermine public confidence in United States elections, including through the unauthorized accessing of election and campaign infrastructure or the covert distribution of propaganda and disinformation.”
On Sept. 10 of this year, Trump issued a widely unreported notice in which he continued the national emergency declaration. In the new notice, the national emergency is continued until Sept. 12, 2021.
"Unauthorized accessing of election and campaign infrastructure" is one of the key issues being pursued by Trump's legal team in its contesting of the Nov. 3 election.
According to the executive order, the term "election infrastructure" means "information and communications technology and systems used by or on behalf of the Federal Government or a State or local government in managing the election process, including voter registration databases, voting machines, voting tabulation equipment, and equipment for the secure transmission of election results."
That would include Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic, which are at the center of the Trump legal team's fight. Dominion is based in Canada. Smartmatic is based in the UK.
“Our votes in 27/28 states that are counted by Dominion, and calculated and analyzed, they’re sent outside of the United States. And they’re not sent to Canada. They’re sent to Germany and Spain, and the company counting it is not Dominion, it’s Smartmatic,” Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said.
Giuliani explained that Smartmatic was designed in Venezuela for the purpose of rigging elections.
“That’s their expertise: How to fix elections. They did it a number of times in Venezuela, they did it in Argentina, and they messed up an election…in Chicago, and there’s a whole Congressional record that you can go look at about what a terrible company this is. Well, that’s the company that was counting and calculating on election night,” Giuliani said.
Spain-based Scytl is also on the Trump team's radar. Sidney Powell, part of the Trump legal team, during Thursday's press conference confirmed reports which said records from Scytl's involvement in election interference were seized, but that she did not know "whether the good guys or bad guys" had seized the evidence.
Trump's September 2018 executive order also describes what it means by the term “foreign interference”:
"…any covert, fraudulent, deceptive, or unlawful actions or attempted actions of a foreign government, or of any person acting as an agent of or on behalf of a foreign government, undertaken with the purpose or effect of influencing, undermining confidence in, or altering the result or reported result of, the election, or undermining public confidence in election processes or institutions."
Trump's order authorizes a broad range of sanctions to punish individuals, companies or countries that interfere in U.S. elections.
Under the order, the U.S. intelligence community must, within 45 days of an election, deliver an assessment of whether or not any foreign entities interfered with it. If the community assesses that there was interference, it will then inform the attorney general and the Department of Homeland Security, who will jointly have another 45 days to decide whether to trigger sanctions on the foreign actor.
Trump administration officials said that the executive order is not country specific, and that it will punish not merely foreign attempts to interfere with election infrastructure, like voting machines, but also any attempts to interfere in U.S. political campaigns.