Donald Trump's new communications director thinks punishing Russia for interfering in the presidential election was "not the best decision."
Donald Trump's newly minted communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, wants to lift sanctions that were imposed on Russia in retaliation for its election meddling.
Scaramucci expressed this position in a pair of interactions with state-owned Russian media in January, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, while he was serving on Trump's transition team.
His comments echo recent actions from the Trump administration currently pushing for the sanctions imposed by the Obama administration to be eased.
Scaramucci told TASS, the state-run Russian newswire, that Trump "has an enormous respect for the Russian people and the legacy of the relationship that the US has with Russia" and that Trump was "signaling" that he hoped to improve the relationship in the coming year.
He said the sanctions put in place by President Barack Obama had "galvanized the nation" with Putin, and were having "an opposite effect because of Russian culture."
At the event, Scaramucci also slammed the sanctions to Russian state TV.
Noting that Americans and Russians have "common goals and common values," Scaramucci said the sanctions were "not the best decision made by the Obama administration." He told them that "Americans love Russians" and described Russia as "a country of great achievements."*
At the same forum, Scaramucci also met with the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Kirill Dmitriev. The $10 billion fund is operated by the Russian government, and has been subject to sanctions since 2015 after Russia invaded and occupied eastern Ukraine.
Top Democrats have made clear that if the push for sanctions relief is part of an agreement made at the Trump campaign's clandestine meeting with Russian operatives, in exchange for campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton, it would constitute a "serious crime."
By hiring Scaramucci, Trump has added yet another influential figure to his team who believes that Russian election meddling shouldn't be punished, and that despite their behavior they should have unfettered access to American markets.
*Translation provided by Chris Stroop