(NBC News) — President-elect Donald Trump gave Vladimir Putin two thumbs up Friday for not immediately retaliating after the U.S. expelled 35 Russian diplomats and imposed other sanctions for allegedly interfering with the presidential election.
Trump tweeted his approval after Putin rejected his foreign minister’s proposal to give American diplomats the boot as payback.
“I always knew he was very smart,” Trump tweeted.
Not long after, the Russian Embassy in the U.S. retweeted Trump.
Putin has condemned President Obama’s move, which also included imposing sanctions on two suspected hackers and three companies that allegedly support the Russian GRU intelligence service’s cyber operations.
U.S. intelligence services have accused the Russians of launching cyber-attacks on the Democratic Party in the run up to the Nov. 8 election.
Emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were leaked online and messages stolen from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta later appeared on the website WikiLeaks.
The CIA concluded Moscow was, in part, trying to help Trump win and NBC News has reported that intelligence officials believe “with a high level of confidence” that Putin was personally involved in the covert campaign.
The Russians have denied meddling in the election. But many Democratic and Republican lawmakers are convinced that Moscow crossed the line and support a strong response against the Russians.
“Russia is not our friend,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently tweeted, adding that Obama had not “dissuaded” Moscow from trying to hack into U.S. security systems.
Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, tweeted that Putin is playing Trump for a fool
Trump, however, has insisted repeatedly that he doesn’t believe the Russians played any role in his unexpected victory. And when asked about the sanctions, he replied: “I think we ought to get on with our lives.”
“I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole, you know, age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what’s going on,” Trump said Thursday outside his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. “We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure you have the security that you need.”
Trump added that he had not yet spoken with the senators who have called for sanctions.
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