President Donald Trump on Thursday said he was “very thankful” to Russian President Vladimir Putin for Putin’s order that the U.S. diplomatic mission in Russia cut its staff by 755 people.
“Do you have any response to the Russian president expelling 755 workers from our embassy?” one journalist asked during a pool spray Thursday.
“No, I want to thank him, because we’re trying to cut down on payroll, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll,” Trump said, responding to a question about the Putin-mandated cut. “There’s no real reason for them to go back. So I greatly appreciate the fact that they’ve been able to cut our payroll for the United States. We’ll save a lot of money.”
Trump didn’t show any sign that he was joking about the statement, which reflected the opposite of Putin’s stated goal in ordering a cut: to harm the United States.
“Over 1,000 employees — diplomats and technical workers — worked and continue to work today in Russia; 755 will have to stop this activity,” Putin said in his announcement of the cut, according to the New York Times. “That is biting,” he added.
Putin had ordered the cut in response to the United States Senate passing a new round of sanctions against Russia. President Trump ultimately signed the sanctions — and sanctions against Iran and North Korea — into law.