Conway, Trump face bipartisan backlash for suggesting Russian sanctions could be lifted


Kellyanne Conway declared on Fox and Friends that President Obama's sanctions against Russia would be "under consideration" for Donald Trump's upcoming phone call with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Trump later confirmed the message during a joint news conference with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May.

In a conversation on Fox and Friends, host Brian Kilmeade asked White House counselor Kellyanne Conway whether the sanctions placed on Russia by President Obama in response to that country's interference in our election would be a topic of conversation during Donald Trump's first official phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Conway's answer was affirmative that the subject would be "under consideration." And in true Trump team fashion, she could not resist working in a pointless semantic dig at Hillary Clinton:

KILMEADE: I understand that President Trump will be calling Vladimir Putin at some point Saturday, and some have suggested that the sanctions from the previous administration are going to be on the table right away. What could you tell us about the agenda?

CONWAY: All of that is under consideration, and certainly in addition to improving relations with different foreign leaders and their nations around the globe. If Vladimir Putin wants to join with the U.S. to have a serious conversation about how to defeat radical Islamic terrorism — that's what we call them around this White House, we don't call them our, quote, 'determined enemies' like Hillary Clinton did in her convention speech in July in Philadelphia. I don't even know who that means. We call them radical Islamic terrorists, we call them murderers here. If another nation that has considerable resources wishes to join together with the United States of America to try to defeat and eradicate radical Islamic terrorism, then we are listening. It's very important that we have these conversations.

KILMEADE: But don't they have to change their behavior, Kellyanne, don't they have to change their behavior in order to get those sanctions lifted? Like, not carving up other countries and not destroying, you know, families and towns indiscriminately like they are doing in Syria?

CONWAY: Well, you know what the president has said. It's America First, and that includes in his foreign policy and his national security moves. So, yes, he will call out other nations when he believes it's not in America's interest and in the interest of humanity. But that's what these conversations are for, these private conversations with world leaders.

Trump himself later confirmed the suggestion in his joint press conference with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May:

HOLLAND: Thank you. You're going to be speaking tomorrow with the Russian president. What message would you like to convey to him? How close are you to lifting some of the sanctions imposed on Russia over his Ukraine incursion, what would you expect in return? And Prime Minister May, do you foresee any changes in British attitudes towards sanctions on Russia?

TRUMP: Well, I hear a call was set up, Steve, and we'll see what happens as far as the sanctions, very early we'll be talking about that. But we look to have a great relationship with all countries, ideally. That won't necessarily happen, unfortunately, probably won't happen with many countries.

In a forceful statement on Trump's call to Putin, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) commented that Trump should remember to whom he is speaking when he picks up the phone:

Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, had his own harsh words for Trump:

For a President who frequently touts his negotiating prowess to surrender all of our leverage against Russia as it continues to sow discord in Eastern Ukraine, bomb civilians and meddle in the elections of the United States and our closest allies would be nothing less than inexplicable. It would also fly in the face of a bipartisan consensus which was echoed by his own national security cabinet appointees.

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) likewise chimed in, saying that lifting sanctions would "only reward Russia's attempts to undermine democracy."

Lifting the sanctions against Russia would not be, as Trump and Conway imply, a show of strength against ISIS. On the contrary, as McCain asserted, it plays into Russia's hands, because despite the current friendly facade, Putin "wants to be our enemy" and "believes that strengthening Russia means weakening America."

By evincing readiness to undo President Obama's necessary and protective measures, Trump is further empowering a treacherous leader who does not respect our country — no matter who occupies the Oval Office.