Top Trump aide denounces US sanctions against Russia

Donald Trump (right) talks with Kellyanne Conway (file photo)

US President-elect Donald Trump’s senior aide Kellyanne Conway has denounced outgoing Democratic President Barack Obama's decision to impose harsh economic sanctions against Russia.

On Thursday, Obama announced a series of economic sanctions against Russia, as well as expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats, over allegations that it interfered in the 2016 presidential election through cyberattacks.

"I don't think at the height of the Cold War that this country expelled that many operatives," Conway told CNN on Thursday night, describing the sanctions as "unprecedented."

She suggested that President Obama took these measure against Russia in order to "box in" Trump over the country when he takes office on January 20.

"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," said Conway, the former Trump campaign manager who was last week appointed counselor to the president in the next US administration.

"That would be very unfortunate if politics were the motivating factor here. We can't help but think that's often true,” she stated.

The White House said in a statement on Thursday that there was the consensus from the US Intelligence Community that Russia's intervention in the US election via cyberhacking as "unacceptable and will not be tolerated."

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.

President-elect Trump has repeatedly called for better relations with Moscow. He has rejected claims that Russian intelligence agencies were responsible for the alleged hacking.

Talking to reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Wednesday night, Trump downplayed the allegations of Russian intervention in the election and stressed the need to move forward. He also turned down talk of imposing sanctions against Russia.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Moscow would consider retaliatory measures to the sanctions.

But on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided not to expel US diplomats in reprisal for the Obama administration's hostile actions. "We will not expel anyone," Putin said in a statement.

'Obama trying to create problems for Trump'

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani

Meanwhile, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani also criticized the sanctions against Russia as “petty little actions” intended to create problems for the Republican president-elect.

“There's a certain pettiness that I hadn't seen before. I mean, to do this after 18 months, when you could have prevented it 10 months ago,” said on Friday.

“Petty little actions like this don't mean very much. It's almost a mockery to say this is too little too late. It should have been done 10 months ago, 11 months ago, 12 months ago. If it is really true, the response should be much stronger,” stated Giuliani, who worked as a top surrogate and adviser to Trump during his campaign.

The US sanctions target Russia's FSB and GRU intelligence agencies, four individual GRU officers, and three companies who allegedly provided support to the GRU, and two Russian individuals for using cyberattacks to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information.

Under Thursday's actions, the US also shut down two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland that the United States says are used "for intelligence-related purposes."

In addition, Obama announced that the State Department will expel 35 Russian diplomats, declaring them as "persona non grata". The diplomats were ordered to leave the country within 72 hours along with their families.

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