The executive order addresses not only interference with campaign and election infrastructure, but also propaganda efforts.
The harshest sanctions outlined in the order would be up to the president's discretion.
Trump signed the order behind closed doors with no reporters present, a rare departure from what has been his standard practice. The executive order, called "Imposing Certain Sanctions in the Event of Foreign Interference in a United States Election", establishes a mechanism to impose sanctions on any foreign individual or company found interfering.
"The president has said repeatedly that he is determined that there not be foreign interference in our political process", Bolton said on a conference call.
"I think his actions speak for themselves", Bolton said.
Trump has come under fire from both Democrats and Republicans, who accuse the president of taking a weak stance on accusations of Russian interference.
The White House has worked to push back against accusations that Trump was not seriously committed to aggressively protecting US elections from interference, especially after his press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July. In making that assessment, the DNI will consult with all of the US' multifarious intelligence agencies. Trump did not directly answer the question.
"It has been a touchy subject", one White House official said last month, when the Post reported on a draft of the executive order. There is some frustration among lawmakers that with this executive order, Mr. Trump could be undercutting congressional efforts. Instead, he delivered a rambling response, including demands for investigation of Hillary Clinton's email server and his description of Putin's "extremely strong and powerful" denial of meddling.
Bolton said the order was necessary to ensure a formal process and authorisation for sanctions, but he said he was in talks with lawmakers about legislation as well. He cast the White House action as a way to strengthen US defenses immediately. "The integrity of our elections and our constitutional process are a high priority to him". The United States can and must do more. "We must make sure Vladimir Putin's Russian Federation, or any other foreign actor, understands that we will respond decisively and impose punishing consequences against those who interfere in our democracy".
Donald Trump's visit to Ireland in November cancelled
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that Trump still plans to travel to Paris. The Irish Green Party, which had strongly opposed Mr Trump's visit, described the cancellation as "erratic".
"Unfortunately, President Trump demonstrated in Helsinki and elsewhere that he simply can not be counted upon to stand up to Putin when it matters", Warner said.
"An executive order that inevitably leaves the president broad discretion to decide whether to impose tough sanctions against those who attack our democracy is insufficient", Democratic senator Mark Warner said Wednesday.
Sources told CBS News Tuesday the executive order does not mention Russian Federation by name. The two lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require such mandatory sanctions earlier this year.
The U.S. intelligence community concluded a year ago that "bots" and phony social media accounts spread propaganda and sensational stories to influence the 2016 campaign. The intelligence officials saying that they have also seen interference activity out of China, Iran, and North Korea.
"In regards to Russian involvement in the midterm elections, we continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States", Coats said in August.
The White House declined to comment. Those backing the legislation say that under the bill, a nation would know exactly what it would face if caught. But these sanctions have apparently not deterred the Russian government and other countries with an adversarial relationship with the U.S. from maneuvering to affect the outcome of some 2018 congressional races, according to Coates.
In June, the USA slapped sanctions on several Russian companies and individuals for allegedly aiding Russia's intelligence agency in cyber-attacks against the US.
Still, some action on election interference had been anticipated.