According to The New York Times, Donald Trump was just being “sarcastic” when he thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for ordering that American diplomatic missions in Russia reduce their staff last month, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday.

“He was being sarcastic,” Sanders told the Times in an email, responding to Trump’s remarks the previous day.

Trump said he thanked Putin for the decision to force cuts to diplomatic staff because it allows the U.S. government to “cut down our payroll.”

Putin last month announced dramatic reductions that will cut 755 U.S. diplomatic mission staff at the main U.S. embassy in Moscow and American missions in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.

Thursday’s comments were Trump’s first publicly since Moscow’s announcement.

“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.

“We’re going to save a lot of money,” he added.

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