Trump 'being sarcastic' in thanking Putin for cutting American diplomatic staff: aide
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpMexican presidential candidate vows to fire back at Trump's 'offensive' tweets Elizabeth Warren urges grads to fight for 'what is decent' in current political climate Jim Carrey takes aim at Kent State grad who posed with AR-10 MORE was being sarcastic when he thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for ordering that American diplomatic missions in Russia reduce their staff last month, according to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday.

“He was being sarcastic,” Sanders told The New York Times in an email, responding to Trump's remarks the previous day.

Trump on Thursday said he thanked Putin for the decision to force cuts to diplomatic staff because it allows the U.S. government to "cut down our payroll."

Putin last month announced dramatic reductions that will cut 755 U.S. diplomatic mission staff at the main U.S. Embassy in Moscow and American missions in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok. 


Thursday's comments were the president's first publicly since Moscow's announcement.

“I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down our 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 told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

"We're going to save a lot of money," he added. 

Russia last month demanded that the U.S. keep no more than 455 people in its Russian diplomatic missions — the same as the number of Russian diplomatic and technical staff in the United States.

The move was a response to a new Russian sanctions bill passed overwhelmingly in Congress. Trump reluctantly signed the legislation into law last month, claiming it infringed on his authority as president and limited his ability to negotiate with Moscow.