After Congress passed a bill last month imposing tough sanctions on Russia for its role meddling in the 2016 election, Vladimir Putin announced Russia would retaliate by expelling 755 U.S. diplomats from their country.
While at his Bedminster, N.J. golf club on Thursday, Donald Trump was asked about Russia's move, and gave the following response:
“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.”
Besides the fact that Trump falsely presumes that the diplomats who are expelled from Russia will not continue to work for the State Department, it also stunned an already frustrated diplomatic corps. As one senior diplomat serving overseas put it:
"This is so incredibly demoralizing and disrespectful to people serving their country in harm's way."
One State Department official told POLITICO: "Everyone seems pretty amazed. This statement is naive and shortsighted. It sends a terrible signal to local employees everywhere."
Another State Department official expressed outrage: "THANK Putin? I don't have words that are printable to describe my reaction."
Others expressed their disbelief and offered support for our diplomats on Twitter.
The White House has not yet responded to the criticism.