Trump's Incoming Press Secretary Questions Whether Obama's Russia Sanctions Are Out of 'Proportion'

"Is that response in proportion to the actions taken?" Sean Spicer asked.

ByABC News
January 1, 2017, 9:03 AM

— -- President-elect Donald Trump's incoming White House press secretary questioned whether President Obama’s actions against Russia for an alleged cyberattack on Democratic political organizations may be out of "proportion."

"I think one of the questions that we have is, 'Why the magnitude of this?' I mean you look at 35 people being expelled, two sites being closed down, the question is, is that response in proportion to the actions taken?" incoming White House press secretary and communications director Sean Spicer said in an exclusive interview on "This Week.”

The White House announced Thursday that the president was expelling 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives and sanctioning five Russian entities and four individuals in response to the alleged cyberassault that the U.S. says was intended to interfere with the 2016 election.

Spicer's comments are in sharp contrast to the response of some Republican congressional leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who called the sanctions long overdue or an initial step.

Ryan, for example, said in a statement Thursday, "While today’s action by the administration is overdue, it is an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia."

But Spicer argued in the interview on "This Week" that the Obama administration’s response was unlike any other “in modern history for any action."

He cited as a point of contrast the 2015 intrusion into U.S. Office of Personnel Management computer records by suspected Chinese hackers.

"China took over a million records, sensitive data of people like me who had worked in the government at any time," Spicer said. "Not one thing happened."

"There is a question about whether there's a political retribution here, versus a diplomatic response," he added.

Spicer said that President-elect Trump is "going to sit down with the intelligence committee heads next week and get a full briefing on the situation."

He said Trump will determine "whether or not the Obama administration's response was in proportion to the actions taken. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. We need to have that briefing first."

The incoming White House press secretary added that Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision not to retaliate against the U.S. for the Obama administration's actions shows that "foreign leaders are seeing what we're seeing here in this country -- which is that business as usual is over. President Trump is not only going to put the American worker first, but he's going to restore America's place in the globe."

Spicer also addressed Trump's use of Twitter, saying that he will "absolutely" continue to use the social media platform to make policy statements and engage with his followers after he takes office.

"I think it freaks the mainstream media out that he has this following of over 45-plus million people that follow him on social media, that he can have a direct conversation. He doesn't have to have it funnel through the media," Spicer said. "The fact of the matter is when he tweets, he gets results."

Spicer said the Trump administration will also continue the tradition of holding regular White House press briefings and presidential press conferences.

"Some of them will be on camera, some of them will be off," he said. "Absolutely, we'll sit down and make sure that on a daily basis the press is informed."

Looking ahead to the start of Trump's presidency, Spicer said, "He's going to start implementing things. He's going to bring a new brand to Washington. He's going to institute a lobbying ban, five years, it's very forward-thinking."

"What we've had in the past is people who have looked in the rearview mirror. This time, we're thinking forward," Spicer said.

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