- Associated Press - Sunday, December 18, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Defeated Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte says U.S. politicians need to remember that Russian President Vladimir Putin “is not our friend.”

Ayotte commented on current events and her tenure in the Senate during a pre-taped Sunday interview with WMUR-TV, one of her first interviews since losing the election.

The interview didn’t delve into Russian hacking during the U.S. election or President-elect Donald Trump’s questioning of intelligence provided by the CIA on the topic. But Ayotte did say Trump must show strength toward Russia, and said there are “real questions” about his Secretary of State nominee, Exxon Mobil executive Rex Tillerson.

Ayotte became a prominent voice on national security during her term in the Senate.

“The president-elect needs to set a new course with Russia, a much stronger one than we have had,” she said.

Ayotte raised concerns about Putin awarding the “Order of Friendship” to Tillerson in 2013 and questioned whether Tillerson would support continuing sanctions against Russia for its 2014 invasion of Ukraine.

Ayotte’s race against Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan was one of the closest in the nation, with Ayotte losing by roughly 1,000 votes. More than a month after her loss, Ayotte said she still hasn’t decided what’s next for her political and professional career. She told WMUR she’s not interested in returning to her old job as the state’s attorney general.

She also declined to discuss the election in depth or her loss. Ayotte awkwardly danced around Trump for much of the campaign, officially rescinding her support in October when old tapes surfaced of Trump bragging about forcing himself on women. Ayotte said she wrote in Vice President-elect Mike Pence for president.

But she wouldn’t engage Sunday when asked to reflect on why she lost.

“I’m not going to re-litigate the election,” she said. “I worked my hardest.”

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