White House says Trump's Putin comments were sarcastic

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters after a security briefing at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. (AP Pho

BEDMINSTER, N.J. (AP) — The White House says President Donald Trump 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.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Friday that Trump "was being sarcastic" when he made the remark 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.

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.