Trump ‘sarcastic’ when thanking Putin for diplomat cuts

US president had said thanks for Russia cuts ‘because now we have a smaller payroll’

US president Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin at a summit in Hamburg, Germany, in July. Photograph: Stephen Crowley/New York Times

US president Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin at a summit in Hamburg, Germany, in July. Photograph: Stephen Crowley/New York Times

 

US president Donald Trump was being “sarcastic” when he thanked Russian president Vladimir Putin for saving the United States money by ordering major cuts in numbers of US diplomatic staff in Russia, NBC News reported, citing the White House spokeswoman.

Nearly 24 hours after Mr Trump made the remarks, the @NBCPolitics Twitter account posted as an explanation that spokeswoman “Sarah Huckabee Sanders says President Trump ‘was being sarcastic’ when he thanked Mr Putin for expelling diplomats from Moscow”.

In an email on Friday morning, Ms Huckabee Sanders said Mr Trump meant his comment to be funny. “He was being sarcastic,” she said. But she did not explain why Mr Trump remained so reluctant to utter a word of criticism against Mr Putin.

‘Smaller payroll’

Breaking nearly two weeks of silence on Mr Putin’s July 30th order cutting US embassy and consulate staff by nearly two thirds, Mr Trump said on Thursday: “I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll,” adding “there’s no real reason for them to go back”.

The remarks were likely to rekindle criticism of Mr Trump’s kid-glove handling of Mr Putin. The comments differed markedly from reactions of other presidents in similar circumstances in the past.

It also clashed with a State Department official having called Moscow’s order “a regrettable and uncalled-for act”.

Mr Putin, reacting to new sanctions imposed by the US Congress and reluctantly signed into law by Mr Trump, ordered Washington to cut 755 of its 1,200 embassy and consulate staff by September.

Many of those affected likely will be local Russian staffers.

Reuters/New York Times