State Dept. staffers ‘horrified’ by president’s response to Putin on diplomatic staff cuts

by WorldTribune Staff, August 11, 2017

After the U.S. slapped new sanctions on Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for 755 out of a total of about 1,200 diplomatic positions at the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Russia to be cut.

President Donald Trump’s response to Putin was uncharacteristic for the striped-pants set if not for The Donald himself.

President Donald Trump on Russia’s call for cuts in embassy staff: ‘We’ll save a lot of money.’ / AFP / Getty Images

“I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down on payroll,” Trump said on Aug. 10. “I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll. There’s no real reason for them to go back…. We’ll save a lot of money.”

“Foggy bottom”, the Northwest quadrant of the nation’s capital (aka “The Swamp”) which has become synonymous with the State Dept., was not amused.

Reuters cited a current diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, as saying that State Department staffers were “horrified and rattled” by Trump’s remarks.

Trump’s remarks to reporters as he vacationed at his golf resort in New Jersey were his first public response to Putin’s July 30 demand that the U.S. cut the 755 staffers.

Current and former diplomats seemed stunned by Trump’s remarks while reporters who questioned the president said it wasn’t clear whether he was joking.

“If he was joking, he should know better,” Nicholas Burns, the State Department’s third-ranking official under President George W. Bush, told Reuters.

“If he wasn’t, it’s unprecedented. A president has never defended the expulsion of our diplomats,” Burns said.

Putin called for the diplomats to be cut after Congress passed a bill imposing additional sanctions on Russia over its alleged meddling in the U.S. presidential election in 2016 and its actions in Ukraine.

Putin’s demand was also a response to President Barack Obama’s decision in December 2016 to expel 35 Russian diplomats and seize two Russian diplomatic country retreats in the United States.

Though he said the sanctions legislation was “flawed,” Trump signed it on Aug. 2. The president has repeatedly called the ongoing investigations a “witch hunt” that will uncover no collusion between his campaign and Russia or other wrongdoing.

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