Trump was ‘sarcastic’ in thanking Putin for expelling diplomats: White House official

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President Donald Trump thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday for expelling hundreds of U.S. diplomatic employees from Russia, claiming it is financially advantageous to the U.S.

Trump made the comments while taking questions from reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, suggesting that the expulsion will save the U.S. money.

“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. It was unclear whether he was joking.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry ordered the reduction in response to new sanctions against Russia that Trump signed into law earlier this month.

On July 28, the U.S. ambassador to Russia expressed “strong disappointment and protest” to Russia after it seized two American facilities and called on the U.S. to remove some of its personnel or face expulsion from the country.

“We have received the Russian government notification. Ambassador [John] Tefft expressed his strong disappointment and protest,” a State Department official told ABC News.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has stated that the U.S. must reduce its diplomatic and technical staff to match the number of Russian staff working in America by Sept. 1. Russia said it currently has 455 staff members working in the U.S.

The two facilities Russia had seized are a recreational country house outside Moscow and a storage facility in Moscow.

ABC News’ Katherine Faulders and Conor Finnegan contributed to this report.

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