Kellyanne Conway Defends Donald Trump’s Interest in Cabinet Picks With Russian Ties

Kellyanne Conway explained in a new interview why President-elect Donald Trump is interested in appointing cabinet members with ties to Russia.

Conway, 49 — Trump’s senior adviser — made a Monday, December 12, appearance on the Today show, and defended the ex-Celebrity Apprentice host’s expected pick for secretary of state: Exxon Mobil’s Rex Tillerson, who has a business relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“We want somebody who’s already accustomed to negotiating. … Because he’s an oilman, he’s been in Yemen and China and Russia and in the developing world and in the Middle East, certainly,” Conway said, adding that Trump, 70, will make the announcement about his appointed secretary of state “probably this week.”

Kellyanne Conway on Today
Kellyanne Conway on 'Today'

Pressed further about Tillerson’s friendship with 64-year-old Putin, Conway insisted that the two men are not as close as people think. “It’s not like Vladimir Putin and Rex Tillerson are pounding down vodka at the local bar,” she said. “They’re not intimate friends, but they deal with each other through business interests.”

On Friday, December 9, The Washington Post reported that the CIA reached “a consensus” that Russia intervened in this year’s presidential election to help Trump defeat his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. However, the reality star turned politician does not believe Putin’s country had any influence over the outcome. “I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse,” he said over the weekend.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, center, gestures to campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, right, during an election night party at the Hilton Midtown hotel in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States in a repudiation of the political establishment that jolted financial markets and likely will reorder the nation's priorities and fundamentally alter America's relationship with the world.
U.S. president-elect Donald Trump gestures to campaign manager Kellyanne Conway during an election night party at the Hilton Midtown hotel in New York on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States in a repudiation of the political establishment that jolted financial markets and likely will reorder the nation's priorities and fundamentally alter America's relationship with the world. Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” Trump added in a statement. “The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.'”

In defense, Conway told Today that Trump “cares very much about our intelligence community,” but she and the real estate tycoon “don’t want politics interfering with our intelligence, and that’s what’s happening here.”

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