“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 a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll,” Trump said. “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. We're going to save a lot of money.”
Trump's answer was a tad tongue-in-cheek, but he gave no clear indication that he was joking or trying to be facetious in offering his gratitude to Putin.
Putin's order to expel U.S. diplomats was a significant escalation in tensions after the United States increased sanctions against Russia over the Kremlin's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.