PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump is responding to the Obama administration's decision to impose new sanctions on Russian officials and intelligence services by insisting it is "time for our country to move on to bigger and better things."
But he says he'll meet with U.S. intelligence officials next week "in order to be updated on the facts of this situation."
The Obama administration announced Thursday it would impose new sanctions in retaliation for Russia's efforts to interfere with the U.S. presidential election by hacking American political sites and email accounts.
Russian officials have denied the Obama administration's accusations. Trump has expressed skepticism about the alleged interference.
Donald Trump, After Dismissing Hacking, Agrees to an Intelligence Briefing
|© AP Photo/Evan Vucci President-elect Donald Trump speaks to reporters at Mar-a-Lago, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016, in Palm Beach, Fla.|
In a brief written statement, Mr. Trump’s first response to President Obama’s sweeping action against Russia, the president-elect reiterated his call for “our country to move on to bigger and better things.” But he said that, “in the interest of our country and its great people,” he would get the briefing “nevertheless.”
The statement to some extent echoed his remarks late Wednesday, when he was asked at his Mar-a-Lago estate about Mr. Obama’s plan to take action against Russia. In otherwise opaque comments, Mr. Trump appeared to concede the need to make computers more secure.
“I think we ought to get on with our lives,” he said. “I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind, the security we need.”
Mr. Trump took questions Wednesday from a handful of reporters as Don King, the sports promoter and a longtime friend, stood next to him. He has not held a formal news conference since July, though he promised on Wednesday to hold one in early January.
The president-elect has bucked the consensus of his own party in Congress in repeatedly expressing skepticism that Russia was behind hacking during the election. His isolation was underscored by other Republicans’ responses to the Obama administration’s actions.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Thursday that the sanctions were “overdue,” but still blamed Mr. Obama for “eight years of failed policy with Russia.”
“Russia does not share America’s interests,” Mr. Ryan said in a statement. “In fact, it has consistently sought to undermine them, sowing dangerous instability around the world.”
Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina went further, saying they would push Congress for even stronger sanctions than Mr. Obama was seeking.
That is a direct challenge to Mr. Trump and his advisers, who mocked intelligence agencies this month for their conclusion that Russia was responsible for the hacking.
“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse,” Mr. Trump said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” on Dec. 11. “I don’t believe it.” He linked the intelligence assessments on Russia to Democrats’ embarrassment over their loss to him.
Mr. Trump has also voiced his doubts several times on Twitter. In one post, he asked, “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act?” In another, he asserted that “unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking.”
In the posts, Mr. Trump wrongly asserted that the United States government had waited until after the election to accuse Russia. In fact, the administration announced in October that it believed Russia had been involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the leaking of the organization’s emails.
Mr. Trump was asked on Wednesday about statements by Mr. Graham that the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, should be personally penalized for the hacking. The president-elect said he was unaware of the comments by Mr. Graham, who was a Republican candidate for president before dropping out a year ago.
“I don’t know what he’s doing,” Mr. Trump said, adding, “As you know, he ran against me.”
Conway wonders if Russian sanctions were intended to restrict Trump
A top aide to President-elect Donald Trump speculated Thursday that the Obama administration's sanctions against Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 election may have been aimed at restricting Trump's policy toward Russia.
Kellyanne Conway, who managed Trump's campaign and will serve as a counselor to him in the White House, cited a New York Times article saying President Barack Obama was trying to "box-in" his successor by issuing the sanctions with just weeks left in his presidency.
"I will tell you that even those who are sympathetic to President Obama on most issues are saying that part of the reason he did this today was to quote 'box in' President-elect Trump," Conway told CNN's Kate Bolduan on "OutFront." "That would be very unfortunate if politics were the motivating factor here. We can't help but think that's often true."
She added: "That is not the way that peaceful exchanges work in this democracy."
Moreover, the Trump confidant painted the focus on Russia's potential involvement in Democratic Party hacking as something of a distraction.
"All we heard through the election was 'Russia, Russia, Russia,'" Conway said. "Since the election, it's just this fever pitch of accusations and insinuations."
Conway argued the hacks targeting the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta did not cause Clinton's loss nearly as much as her failed campaign strategy did.
"I don't believe Vladimir Putin deterred her from competing in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan," Conway said.
The Trump confidant also hit the Obama administration for its policy on Israel, calling the decision to allow a UN resolution against settlements in the West Bank "sanctions" of their own kind, and knocked the DNC for improper security procedures that left it open to a breach, a similar line offered by incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer just hours earlier on CNN.
In a statement following the announcement from the Obama administration, Trump called on the US to "move on," but said he'd be briefed next week about the issue.
"It's time for our country to move on to bigger and better things. Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation," Trump said in a statement.
The Intelligence Community has publicly stated Russia was behind hacks of political organizations and persons in the United States, while Trump has largely rejected the notion.
Trump's statement and Conway's remarks in the interview were in line with what he said late Wednesday evening that Americans should "get on with our lives" when he was asked about the expected White House announcement.
"I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I'm not sure we have the kind of the security we need," Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
The President-elect and his transition team have been quick to rebuff the new intelligence assessment and dismiss out of hand any concerns about Russian influence in the election. But he has not publicly indicated whether he would reverse sanctions against Russia over the matter.
Earlier Thursday, Obama's top adviser on homeland security and counterterrorism said it would be "highly unusual" for Trump to reverse Obama's sanctions.
"I'm not going to talk about whatever conversations the President and President-elect have had since the election," Lisa Monaco told CNN's Jake Tapper on "The Lead." "I will say the reversal of sanctions ... would be highly unusual. Indeed, the sanctions usually remain in place until the activity and the reasons for them being imposed in the first place has been removed."
A senior Obama administration official acknowledged to reporters on Thursday that Trump could reverse the sanctions by executive order, but added, "I don't think it'd make a lot of sense."
On Thursday, the Obama administration sanctioned four Russian individuals and five Russian entities over the alleged election meddling as well as ordering dozens of Russian diplomats to leave the country. This is the first time the names of Russian officials involved in the hacking have become public on the sanctions list.