Columbia: Donald Trump's senior aide Kellyanne Conway on Friday criticized President Barack Obama's decision to impose new sanctions against Russia, suggesting that one of the motives was to "box in" the president-elect.
The White House on Thursday unleashed a barrage of punishment against Moscow over alleged interference in last month`s presidential election, giving what it called 35 Russian "intelligence operatives" based at the country`s embassy in Washington and consulate in San Francisco 72 hours to leave the country, and hitting Russia`s military and domestic intelligence agencies with sanctions.
"I don`t think at the height of the Cold War that this country expelled that many operatives," Conway told CNN late Thursday, calling the sanctions "unprecedented."
Many believe Obama enacted the sanctions in order to "box in" Trump over Russia when he takes office on January 20, she added.
"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 said.
"That would be very unfortunate if politics were the motivating factor here. We can`t help but think that`s often true."
In 2001, then-president George W. Bush expelled 50 Russian diplomats after the arrest of Robert Hanssen, an FBI special agent who had spied for Russia for more than 15 years.
Conway -- who served a crucial role as Trump`s campaign manager and was appointed last week to be White House counselor under Trump after he takes office on January 20 -- suggested the latest sanctions were "symbolic."
The FBI and CIA have concluded that Russian intelligence agencies oversaw the hacking and leaking of emails from Democratic Party organizations under Kremlin orders this year in order to benefit Trump`s campaign.
Trump -- who has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and made a number of cabinet picks of people with ties to Russia -- has ridiculed the US intelligence, saying it is not clear who conducted the attacks.
He responded to the sanctions against Russia on Thursday with a call for the country to "move on."
"It`s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things," Trump said.
"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."
Asked whether Trump will reverse the Obama administration`s latest sanctions against Russia, Conway replied, "I will not make a statement on that at all."