President Donald Trump implied that he was joking when he thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for ordering cuts of US diplomatic staff in Russia.
Trump made the comment during a press conference on Thursday, saying he was “very thankful” for the dramatic cuts, which he claimed would save the US some money.
“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 said during a news conference at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.
A reporter asked Trump on Friday whether he was being sarcastic with his platitudes toward Putin’s order to cut hundreds of US staff.
“In order to reduce our payroll, absolutely,” Trump said according to a readout of the president’s statements released by the White House. “I think you know that. I think you know that.”
Trump consulted with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when asked when the US would respond to Putin on the matter.
“When, Rex? Tell me,” Trump said.
Tillerson replied: “By September 1st.”