Bolton noted that the scope of the order included not just attacks on election infrastructure but also "the distribution of propaganda" meant to impact the electoral process.
The order sets up a high-level process for the USA intelligence community and other law enforcement officials to investigate and evaluate possible election meddling.
"It's more than Russian Federation here that we are looking at", National Intelligence Director Dan Coats told reporters on a conference call, specifying that U.S. intelligence agencies are concerned about the ability of Iran, North Korea and China to interfere in the election, and threatening an "automatic response to that".
The Treasury and State departments also would be advised of the election attack and would be able to impose additional sanctions.
USA intelligence agencies concluded that entities backed by the Kremlin sought to boost Republican Trump's chances of winning the White House in the 2016 election against his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Coats listed Iran, North Korea and China as other countries that have the capability to launch attacks on elections.
The order gives the government 45 days after an election to assess whether there has been any outside influence, and then another 45 days to assess whether sanctions can be imposed. Sens. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) criticized the measure for not going far enough.
"I applaud the attempt to make it harder to evade, to let something fall away and not be countered", Michele Markoff, the State Department's Deputy Coordinator for Cyber, said during a panel discussion in Washington Wednesday.
The intelligence agencies have already detected possible "attempts" to interfere with - or intervene in - the November elections by four specific countries. Those backing the legislation say that under the bill, a nation would know exactly what it would face if caught.
The US President has signed an order that allows the government to impose sanctions on any person or country that interferes with US elections.. If the U.S. determines that any foreign meddling has occurred, the executive order ensures a quick, forceful, and proportionate response, he said.
At a July 16 news conference in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump was asked if he would denounce what happened in 2016 and warn Putin never to do it again. Trump did not directly answer the question.
Both Republicans and Democrats criticized the move as insufficient, however. He has cited USA sanctions and the expulsion of alleged Russian spies from the U.S. Trump dismisses the investigations as a political witch hunt.
"I thought there was an opportunity there that I wish we would have taken advantage of", Rogers said at an event at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on the relationship between the presidency and the intelligence community. Sir, this is not about politics, it's not about parties.
"Sir, this isn't about politics, it isn't about party, it's about a foreign state that is attempting to subvert the very tenets of our structure", he recalled saying to POTUS. That should concern us leaders. Russian entities have not targeted those systems to the degree they did in 2016, Coats said Wednesday. Mueller is also looking into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
It came as Congress has been weighing its own legislation to punish those interfering in elections, which the White House reportedly fears could overly tie the president's hands.
"The Russians are still at it".