President Donald Trump publicly thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, crediting the leader for helping America cut back on expenses.
“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,” Trump told reporters. “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. We’ll save a lot of money.”
According to reports, the cuts came from a pool of 1,200 embassy and consulate staff, although local Russian staffers are most likely to be affected by the move. The president’s comments are his first substantive reaction to Putin’s announcement.
Q: Thoughts on Putin expelling US diplomats?
Trump: “I greatly appreciate the fact that they’ve been able to cut our payroll.” (via ABC) pic.twitter.com/iR5JbHLHZj
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 10, 2017
The State Department reacted to Putin’s order differently, with an official reportedly stating it was “a regrettable and uncalled-for act.”
Some have suggested that the president was joking, but critics aren’t happy.
Social media is on fire with criticism of the statement, and Nicholas Burns, formerly the State Department’s third-ranking official, didn’t find it funny. “If he was joking, he should know better,” Burns reportedly said. “If he wasn’t, it’s unprecedented. A president has never defended the expulsion of our diplomats.”
A shameful statement by Pres. Trump. He justifies mistreatment of US diplomats by Putin. If he was joking, it shows his true character https://t.co/BH9ru1m46R
— Nicholas Burns (@RNicholasBurns) August 10, 2017
Also Thursday, President Trump said he’d been surprised by the FBI raid on Paul Manafort’s house, saying, “I thought it was a very, very strong signal.”
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Trump comments about Manafort raid: “I was surprised” (VIDEO)