US President-elect Donald Trump could reverse President Barack Obama's sweeping new sanctions against Moscow that included the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats, officials say.
“If a future president decided he wanted to allow in a large tranche of Russian intelligence agents, presumably a future president could do that,” a senior Obama administration official said during a press call on Thursday.
“We don’t think it would make much sense to reopen Russian intelligence compounds,” the official added. “We don’t think it makes much sense to invite back in Russian intelligence agents.”
As part of retaliation for alleged Russian efforts to interfere with the US presidential election, Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 diplomats from the Russian embassy in Washington and closing down of two Russian facilities in the United States.
The US intelligence community has concluded that Russia targeted Democratic political organizations and Hillary Clinton’s campaign to benefit her Republican rival, Trump.
Trump, who will take office on January 20, said he would meet with intelligence officials next week to discuss the matter.
“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,” the president-elect said Thursday evening.
Trump has praised Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and said it was important for the US to improve its relations with the country. He has also repeatedly denied that Russia was involved in the cyber interference.
Experts say Trump might be inclined to use the powers of the executive office to roll back the newly-imposed sanctions, but the move would put him on a collision course with his own party.
Republican leaders in Congress hailed Obama’s executive order and said the retaliatory action was long overdue.
“Russia does not share America’s interests. In fact, it has consistently sought to undermine them, sowing dangerous instability around the world. While today’s action by the administration is overdue, it is an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed Obama’s foreign policy for allowing Russia to interfere in the US election system, but said the sanctions were “a good initial step.”
“Sanctions against the Russian intelligence services are a good initial step, however late in coming,” he said in a statement. “As the next Congress reviews Russian actions against networks associated with the US election, we must also work to ensure that any attack against the United States is met with an overwhelming response.”
Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain also released a statement saying Obama’s measures were “long overdue” and just a “small price to pay.” They said they would lead congressional efforts for even stronger sanctions against Russia.
Moscow has rejected the US hacking accusations as “unfounded,” while calling on the Obama administration to provide proof of its interference in the election.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a joint report on Thursday, providing technical details about the tools and cyber infrastructure they said Russian civilian and military intelligence services used for the hacks.