Conway wonders if Russian sanctions were intended to restrict Trump

Story highlights

  • She says usually sanctions remain in place until the activity that caused the sanctions is removed
  • Trump said that Americans should "get on with our lives" when asked about possible Russian sanctions

Washington (CNN)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.