Trump aide says U.S. sanctions on Russia
may be disproportionate
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[January 02, 2017]
By David Shepardson and Lisa Lambert
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top aide to
President-elect Donald Trump said in an interview aired on Sunday that
the White House may have disproportionately punished Russia by ordering
the expulsion of 35 suspected Russian spies.
Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on ABC's "This
Week" that Trump will be asking questions of U.S. intelligence agencies
after President Barack Obama imposed sanctions last week on two Russian
intelligence agencies over what he said was their involvement in hacking
political groups in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Obama also
ordered Russia to vacate two U.S. facilities as part of the tough
sanctions on Russia.
"One of the questions that we have is why the magnitude of this? I mean
you look at 35 people being expelled, two sites being closed down, the
question is, is that response in proportion to the actions taken? Maybe
it was; maybe it wasn't but you have to think about that," Spicer said.
Trump is to have briefings with intelligence agencies this week after he
returns to New York on Sunday.
On Saturday, Trump expressed continued skepticism over whether Russia
was responsible for computer hacks of Democratic Party officials.
"I think it's unfair if we don't know. It could be somebody else. I also
know things that other people don't know so we cannot be sure," Trump
He said he would disclose some information on the issue on Tuesday or
Wednesday, without elaborating. It is unclear if, upon taking office on
Jan. 20, he would seek to roll back Obama's actions, which mark a
post-Cold War low in U.S.-Russian ties.
Spicer said that after China in 2015 seized records of U.S. government
employees "no action publicly was taken. Nothing, nothing was taken when
millions of people had their private information, including information
on security clearances that was shared. Not one thing happened."
"So there is a question about whether there's a political retribution
here versus a diplomatic response," he added.
PRESSURE IN CONGRESS
U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia was behind hacks into Democratic
Party organizations and operatives before the presidential election.
Moscow denies this. U.S. intelligence officials say the Russian cyber
attacks aimed to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
[to top of second column]
Sean Spicer arrives in the lobby of Republican president-elect
Donald Trump's Trump Tower in New York, New York, U.S. November 14,
2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Republican John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services
Committee, has scheduled a hearing for Thursday on foreign cyber
threats and has said that Russia must be made to pay the price for
attacks "on our very fundamentals of democracy.
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said on the
same ABC program that Congress would push for an even harsher
reprisal against Russia and warned Trump against undoing Obama’s
"We think that more has to be done. We don't think that frankly the
steps that have been taken are enough of a deterrent," said
Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat. “And you're going
to see bipartisan support in Congress for stronger sanctions against
Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, said on "Fox News
Sunday" that Obama's sanctions were not enough.
Russian President Vladimir Putin decided not to expel anyone in
retaliation, saying he would consider the actions of Trump when
deciding on further steps. Trump, who has repeatedly praised Putin,
said the Russian leader was "very smart" for holding back.
Russian diplomats who were expelled by Obama left Washington on
Sunday, Russian news agencies reported, citing Russia's embassy.
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan in Palm Beach, Fla.; Editing
by Mary Milliken)
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