Will Trump Roll Back Obama’s Sanctions Against Russia?
One of Donald Trump’s top advisers left open the possibility on Monday that when the president-elect takes office, he could roll back some of the Obama administration’s new sanctions against Russia for its cyber attacks against the Democratic Party.
“There does seem to be a disproportionate response, a punitive one, by President Obama in the instance of the alleged Russian hacking,” Kellyanne Conway told USA Today in an interview when asked about Obama’s sanctions against the Kremlin.
“I predict that President Trump will want to make sure that our actions are proportionate to what’s occurred, based on what we know,” she added.
Last month, the administration expelled 35 Russian intelligence agents from the U.S. and slapped sanctions against four top Kremlin officials over the hacks. On Friday, the intelligence community released a report asserting that Russian president Vladimir Putin directed cyber attacks against various U.S. entities, including the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
But while Trump acknowledged last week after receiving a classified briefing on the investigation that Russia was behind the attacks, the Republican signaled over the weekend that he is less eager to punish Russia for its hacking campaign than the Obama administration has been.
Trump and his team say that the focus on Russia’s hacking is an attempt to delegitimize his election win over Hillary Clinton. They also question why there is a sudden focus on state-sponsored cyber attacks given that adversarial nations have waged such campaigns against the U.S. for years.
Conway, who served as Trump’s campaign manager during the general election, pointed to examples of Chinese hacking of the Office of Personnel Management, North Korean cyber attacks and other hacking campaigns led by Russia.
She argued that the administration’s response to those hacks was “basically a little bit shrug-shouldered.”
Conway was also asked about calls for bi-partisan congressional investigations into Russia’s involvement in the hacks. Numerous Democrats and a handful of Republicans, including Arizona Sen. John McCain and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, have called for hearings on the issue.
“It’s curious and a little bit humorous that Democrats would talk about anything bipartisan…given how they have vowed to obstruct everything we do,” Conway told USA Today.
“I do find it to be very ironic that the uptick and the hue-and-cry of ‘investigation’ and ‘information’ has occurred after the election results are in.”
“The fact is, the Democrats became super-duper interested in this entire issue after the election did not go the way they, quote, wanted and the way they expected,” she added.