Incoming White House communications director Sean Spicer has questioned Barack Obama's motivations behind imposing sanctions against Russia over alleged election-related hacking, saying China did far worse without retribution.

Trump has continued to cast doubt of the CIA's assessment that Russian hackers infiltrated the Democratic Party in an attempt to steer the election in Trump's favour. In response to the report by the intelligence committee, Obama expelled 35 Russian operatives and closed two compounds in Maryland and New York.

"I think one of the questions that we have is, 'Why the magnitude of this,'" Spicer said on ABC's This Week on Sunday (1 January). "I mean you look at 35 people being expelled, two sites being closed down, the question is, is that response in proportion of the actions taken? Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't, but you have to think about that."

According to Fox News, Obama has maintained that the investigation into the hacking is not politically motivated. "There is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact that integrity of our elections that we need to take action."

The president, however, did admit he believed the hacking created "more problems for the Clinton campaign than it had for the Trump campaign".

Spicer noted that the Obama administration did not take the same actions against China when it hacked sensitive data on federal employees. "China took over a million records. And a White House statement wasn't even issued...So there is a question about whether there's a political retribution here versus a diplomatic response," he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he would not be expelling anyone from Russia in response to Obama's sanctions. Trump applauded Putin's decision on Twitter: "Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!"

Spicer said on Sunday that the incoming president will decide after his meeting with US intelligence officials whether or not he believes that Russia and Putin were involved in the hacking.