Donald Trump again tried to shrug off concerns about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election Thursday after the Barack Obama’s administration announced sanctions in response to suspected electoral meddling.
The Obama administration issued an executive order Thursday authorizing sanctions on individuals and organizations it believes were involved in alleged Russian interference in the election.
The White House sanctioned nine entities and individuals: two Russian intelligence agencies, four officers of its largest intelligence agency, GRU, and three companies that supported GRU’s operations. The White House also expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland in response to what it said was harassment of American diplomats in Moscow.
In a short statement Thursday, the president-elect downplayed the White House’s actions, which came after the U.S. intelligence community concluded that the Russian government directed cyberattacks on some American political organizations. However, he said he will meet with intelligence officials next week to get briefed on the situation.
“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’s statement said.
Trump did not give any details on whether he would keep Obama’s sanctions, scrap them or even take further action against Russia, a move some Republicans in Congress have backed.
The measures are expected to test Trump, who has brushed off the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the election, claiming it is an effort to delegitimize his electoral victory. He has been criticized by both major American parties for appearing too warm to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
His statement Thursday echoes one he gave when asked about possible sanctions Wednesday, when he said, “I think we ought to get on with our lives.”
It is unclear what Trump will learn from an intelligence briefing next week that he has not already heard. In October, the month before the election, NBC News reported that Trump would have been briefed on Russian attempts to interfere in the election.
Top GOP congressional leaders largely broke from Trump in their responses to the sanctions Thursday. House Speaker Paul Ryan said Russia has “consistently sought to undermine” America’s interests and called Obama’s actions “overdue.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that “the Russians are not our friends” and called the sanctions “a good initial step.” He urged an “overwhelming response” to cyberattacks against the U.S.
Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, hawks on American policy toward Russia, said in a joint statement that they would push for “stronger sanctions” in the upcoming Congress.