Late last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Russia will expel more than 750 U.S. mission staff members from the country in retaliation for President Trump begrudgingly singing a Russian sanctions bill that was approved by veto-proof majorities in both chambers of Congress. For days, Trump said nothing.
During a question-and-answer sessions with reporters at his private golf club in New Jersey on Thursday, Trump finally responded to Putin’s move. The president — who has staunchly refused to criticize Putin in any way shape or form since launching his presidential bid more than two years ago — actually thanked Putin for expelling American diplomats, saying that it’ll help the State Department cut costs.
Trump didn’t appear to be joking.
“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,” he said. “There’s no real reason for them to go back. I greatly appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We’re going to save a lot of money.”
Shortly after Trump signed the sanctions bill, he released a statement blaming Congress for what he called a “very dangerous low” in U.S. Russia relations. He also took a shot at the Republican-controlled Congress on Twitter.
Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can't even give us HCare!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 3, 2017
Trump’s comments echoed those of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who tweeted that “[t]he US establishment fully outwitted Trump. The President is not happy about the sanctions, yet he could not but sign the bill.”
Trump has also parroted Kremlin talking points while dismissing the US intelligence community’s consensus conclusion that Russia meddled in the presidential election on his behalf.