Trump says he wasn’t being serious in remarks about Putin

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BEDMINSTER, N.J. (AP) — President Donald Trump said he was not being serious when he thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for ordering a drastic reduction in the number of U.S. diplomatic employees and saving the U.S. significant cash.

"Absolutely, I think you know that," Trump told reporters Friday when asked about the comments he made a day earlier.

Trump had said he "greatly" appreciated Putin's help cutting down the State Department's payroll. At the time, it was unclear whether he was joking.

Earlier Friday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump "was being sarcastic" when he made the remarks.

Putin said last month the U.S. would have to cut 755 of its diplomatic staff in Russia — a response to new sanctions that seek to punish Moscow for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and for its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.

Trump said the U.S. would have a response to Putin's decision by Sept. 1, the deadline Russia set for the reduction in U.S. staffing.