Early this year President Donald Trump’s new pick to head up White House communications team told Russian state media outlets that American sanctions against Russia are wrong.
Sanctions against Russia are “not the best decision” taken by the Obama administration said Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci during the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland, according to network Rossiya1.
Scaramucci is expected to be named White House communications director Friday July 21, two sources familiar with the plan told Axios Thursday. Four sources close to the White House also confirmed the move to NBC News.
In 2014 President Barack Obama and the EU placed economic sanctions on Russia after it annexed the Crimean region of Ukraine. Obama placed more sanctions on Russia late last year, shuttering Russian diplomatic compounds and forcing 35 diplomats out of the U.S. on suspicion of spying late last year. The move came after America’s intelligence agencies found evidence that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election.
However, “sanctions probably galvanized the nation with the nation’s president” Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Scaramucci also told the Russian state-owned newswire Tass during the Davos forum.
“I think the sanctions had in some ways an opposite effect because of Russian culture. I think the Russians would eat snow if they had to,” he said. To improve relations between Russia and the U.S. Scaramucci said “what I think we have to do now is think outside the box.”
Scaramucci’s appointment heading White House communications follows the Trump administration being pulled deeper into into the Russia investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller and FBI investigators are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings and examining the Trump family finances, according to a report in Bloomberg Thursday.
Read more: Donald Trump vs. CNN: How the White House just escalated its war on the free press
Expansion of the probe comes more than a week after Donald Trump Jr. revealed that he met with Russians during the 2016 election campaign after being told they had information to discredit Hillary Clinton. The person he met with also suggested there was a Kremlin attempt to influence the election to help his father win the presidency.
During the meeting Trump Jr. said the Russian lawyer that he and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner met with asked for their help removing U.S. sanctions on Russia. Specifically the lawyer was interested in a set of sanctions brought in under the 2012 Magnitsky Act that froze the assets of several wealthy Russian officials.
Trump said Wednesday that he also discussed those sanctions with Putin during a previously undisclosed meeting with the Russian leader at the G20 summit early this month. The Trump administration has also been considering giving Russia back the two diplomatic compounds seized by President Obama.
Scaramucci is replacing Trump’s former communications director, Mike Dubke, who gave his resignation in May after only three months of the job. Trump has been unhappy with how his communications team handled news around Mueller’s Russia investigation and accusations that he interfered in an FBI probe of the issue.
In June Scaramucci was at the center of a controversy that led three CNN reporters to resign after they published an article about him that did not meet the network’s standards. The network reported that the Senate intelligence committee was looking at Scaramucci’s contacts with Russians, however, they retracted the article.
At the Davos forum in January, Scaramucci met with Kirill Dmitriev, who heads the Russian Direct Investment Fund—a $10 billion state-run Russian sovereign wealth fund. The fund has been under U.S. sanctions since 2015.
At the time Scaramucci was operating his own investment fund SkyBridge Capital and the two were reported by Bloomberg to have talked about potentially making joint investments.