White House says Trump’s ‘thank you’ to Putin was a joke

On Thursday, President Donald J. Trump publicly thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for ordering 755 U.S. diplomats to leave Russia.  On Friday, The White House clarified that President Trump was not being completely serious.

When President Trump was asked by reporters Thursday to respond to Russia’s eviction of the 755 diplomat’s, Trump responded, “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.” He continued, “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, Putin was retaliating to sanctions imposed on Russia by the U.S. when he decided to cut the diplomats. 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 were his first substantive reaction to Putin’s retaliatory move.

The president’s statements were denounced by many, although some assumed his statement was made somewhat in jest. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the latter assessment, saying President Trump “was being sarcastic.”

Earlier on Friday, the president was asked if he meant the remarks sarcastically. “Absolutely,” President Trump responded. “I think you know that.”

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