On Thursday, Trump said he was “very thankful” for Russian President Vladimir Putin expelling U.S. diplomats from the country—a stark contrast to the scolding, derogatory statements he made after Congress passed further sanctions on Russia.
In response to the sanctions, Russia ordered the U.S. to expel 755 personnel from American diplomatic compounds in Russia.
“I want to thank [Putin] because we’re trying to cut down on payroll,” Trump said, apparently joking. “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. There’s no real reason for them to go back. … We’ll save a lot of money.”
Trump made the comments while speaking with reporters during his vacation at his golf resort in New Jersey.
The joke about now having a “smaller payroll” did not sit well with members of his administration, according to reports.
The State Department called Putin’s expulsion of the diplomats a “regrettable and uncalled-for act.”
The president’s jovial-sounding remarks were starkly different than the attacks against Congress Trump made earlier this month after he begrudgingly signed a sanctions bill against Russia that he opposed.
The president called the sanction bill, which had near unanimous consent in Congress, “seriously flawed” and lamented over the bill’s restricting of the executive branch’s “flexibility.”
The next day, Trump called the United States’ relationship with Russia “dangerous” and blamed Congress—not Putin—for the two countries’ currently strained relationship.
“Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low,” Trump tweeted last week. “You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!”