It’s been a week of walk backs from the White House after President Trump took questions from reporters at his golf club in New Jersey about some sensitive foreign policy issues.
On Friday, a National Security Council official told Yahoo News that Trump was “being sarcastic” the day before in saying he was “very thankful” Putin had ordered a reduction of hundreds of employees, including diplomats and support staff, in U.S. missions in Russia.
“The president was being sarcastic. We take seriously Moscow’s unwarranted actions against our personnel and diplomatic properties, and we are exploring our response options,” the official said, echoing remarks by White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.
The official also praised American diplomatic personnel in Russia and blamed the Kremlin’s “interference in our election and treatment of our diplomats” for starting a “negative trend in our relationship.”
“Our diplomats at our embassy in Moscow and three consulates serve with great distinction and courage,” the official said, adding, “Along with our Russian employees, they face harassment and intimidation as they seek to manage a troubled bilateral relationship and deepen our ties with the Russian people. The president and the secretary of state value their tremendous work and salute them.”
It was the second time in a week that Trump’s comments required a cleanup effort from administration officials. Trump previously raised the possibility of military action against North Korea during one of his working-vacation question and answer sessions, a position that led to multiple clarifications from State Department officials.