Politico reports: President Donald Trump on Thursday thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for expelling American diplomats from Russia on the grounds that “we’re going to save a lot of money,” prompting dismay among many of the rank-and-file at the State Department.
“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 told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, according to a pool report.
“There’s no real reason for them to go back,” he added. “I greatly appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We’re going to save a lot of money.”
Russia recently announced that it would expel hundreds of U.S. diplomats from its soil to retaliate for sanctions the U.S. put on the Kremlin. Those sanctions are in response to Russia’s suspected attempts to meddle in last year’s U.S. presidential election through a disinformation campaign and cyberattacks on Democratic Party officials.
Trump, whose campaign’s relationship with Russia is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation, had pushed back against the sanctions bill, but signed it into law after it passed Congress with veto-proof majorities in both chambers.
The State Department has not yet released the details of how it will handle the drawdown; Russia has demanded it keep no more than 455 people in its diplomatic missions there. But many, if not most, of the positions cut will likely be those of locally hired Russian staffers. The local staff who are let go will likely get severance payments, but cost savings are possible in the long run.
The U.S. diplomats forced to leave Moscow will in most cases be sent to other posts, sources said.
It wasn’t clear if Trump’s remarks were meant to be in jest, and he gave no solid indication either way. In any case, the comments did not go down well among employees at the State Department, where many U.S. diplomats have felt ignored and badly treated by the Trump administration. Some noted that locally hired staff members affected the most are crucial to American diplomats’ work overseas.
A senior U.S. diplomat serving overseas called Trump’s remarks “outrageous” and said it could lead more State Department staffers to head for the exits.
“This is so incredibly demoralizing and disrespectful to people serving their country in harm’s way,” the diplomat said. [Continue reading…]
Q: Thoughts on Putin expelling US diplomats?
Trump: "I greatly appreciate the fact that they’ve been able to cut our payroll." (via ABC) pic.twitter.com/iR5JbHLHZj
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 10, 2017