President-elect Donald Trump distanced himself Wednesday night from the Obama administration’s plans to punish Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election, telling reporters that “I think we ought to get on with our lives.”
Trump, appearing at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., was asked what he thought about the Obama administration’s plans to sanction Russia for what U.S. intelligence officials say was state-approved hacking of Democratic organizations, the targeting of state election systems and meddling in the U.S. presidential election.
“I think we ought to get on with our lives,” Trump said. “I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of the computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what’s going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I'm not sure we have the kind of security we need.”
Asked in particular about comments Wednesday by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) that sanctions should hit Russian President Vladimir Putin “as an individual,” Trump demurred.
“I don’t know what he’s doing,” Trump said of Graham. “I haven’t spoken to him. As you know, he ran against me.”
Trump, whom critics have accused of being too cozy with Putin, was referring to Graham’s failed 2016 bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
The president-elect made his comments outside an event at his estate that was attended by boxing promoter Don King, who stood by the president-elect’s side as he fielded questions.
Trump also played down questions that have swirled around him about how he will extract himself from his global business interests upon taking office. The president-elect postponed a news conference on that subject this month, and said Wednesday that it will be held early next month.
“It’s a very routine thing,” Trump said. “It’s not a big deal. You people are making that a big deal, the business. … When I won, they all knew I had a big business all over the place. … It’s a much bigger business than anybody thought. It’s a great business, but I’m going to have nothing to do with it.”
Trump said he was prepared to act more boldly than required by law because “I want to focus on the country.”
“I think that’s going to work out very easily,” he said. “It’s actually a very simple situation. It’s not a big deal.”
During the election, several Democratic email accounts were hacked, including those of the Democratic National Committee and of John Podesta, the chairman of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign.
U.S. officials have pinned the blame on the Russian government — a finding that Trump has repeatedly said he views skeptically.
During a conference call with reporters Thursday morning, Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary, suggested Trump's views could change if more solid evidence emerges that Russia was responsible.
“If the United States has clear proof of anyone interfering with our elections, we should make that known,” Spicer said, adding: “Right now we need to see further facts.”
But Spicer said there is also another aspect to the talk about Russia influencing the presidential election.
“I think you have a lot of folks on the left who continue to undermine the legitimacy of his win and the nature of how big that win was,” Spicer said. He called that behavior “unfortunate.”