In the Russian tit-for-tat that occurred right after Congress passed a sweeping sanctions bill, some 700 diplomats and State Department employees were ordered to leave the country. This was not just in response to the bill but also the Obama Administration's move to close two Russian compounds in the United States in response to election interference. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson promised retaliatory steps by Sep. 1, but it seems the president didn't want to wait that long. On Thursday, Trump said he's glad Russia expelled the diplomats because the country will save on payroll. The reaction has been resoundingly negative.
Trump's comments came at a press conference outside his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. It was reported in different media both that the president spoke in a light tone and may have been joking and that he "did not appear to be joking or responding sarcastically." Regardless, foreign affairs experts, diplomats, and journalists are taking him at his word. Here's what he told the crowd of reporters about Putin's move:
I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down on 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. There’s no real reason for them to go back. So I greatly appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We’ll save a lot of money.
The comment sparked near immediate controversy, which can be seen in statements, comments given to newspapers, and the president's own favored form of communication: tweets. Here are a few of the responses that cover just how unhappy experts are.