Commenting for the first time since the extraordinary move by Moscow responding to new sanctions legislation that the U.S. president signed into law, Donald Trump thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday for ordering the U.S. to cut its diplomatic staff by 755 people, The Hill reports.
The president said he was expressing gratitude to his Russian counterpart over the decision, and as a result the U.S. government will be able to “cut down our payroll.”
“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 in a statement at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey.
“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,” the president said. “We’re going to save a lot of money.”
Last month, the Russian president announced that Russia must cut its staff within the U.S. diplomatic mission by 755 people, noting that his government had lost patience that it would improve its ties with the United States.
Vladimir Putin’s move came after Congress overwhelmingly passed new sanctions targeting Russia, Iran and North Korea. The sanctions against Russia were prompted by the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that the Kremlin sought to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and sway the race in Trump’s favor.
The Russian leader has rejected the claims that his government was taking part in the election interfering. Trump signed the sanctions into law very reluctantly, arguing they violated his presidential powers.