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Evan Vucci / AP

President Trump said he was "very thankful" for Vladimir Putin's sanctions on U.S. ambassadors because "we're trying to cut down our payroll." Here's how members of the foreign service community reacted:

In support:

  • Dan Fried, who was U.S. ambassador to Poland and Coordinator for Sanctions Policy at the State Department, told ABC News: "If in a generous mood, you could argue that POTUS is showing Putin that he isn't bothered by this."

In opposition:

  • Nicholas Burns, a former ambassador to NATO and former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, tweeted: "As a Foreign Service veteran, I find it lamentable that our great career diplomats are treated with such disrespect by their President."
  • Barbara Stephenson, the president of the American Foreign Service Association, the diplomats' union released a statement: "America's leadership is being challenged by adversaries who would like to see us fail. We cannot let that happen. With all the threats facing our nation, we need a properly resourced and staffed Foreign Service more than ever, and we need them where they do the most good—posted abroad, delivering for the American people."
  • Aaron Miller, a Middle East diplomat and negotiator, tweeted: "Having served at State for 25 yrs under R/Ds, Trump's defense of Putin over expelled US diplomats one of most shameful of his presidency."
  • Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia and on Obama's National Security Council, tweeted: "Imagine dissing Americans --patriots serving our country under difficult conditions in Russia -to praise Putin. Our president did today."
  • Rep. Eliot L. Engel, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released a statement: "After weeks of silence regarding Vladimir Putin's outrageous expulsion of hundreds of U.S. embassy personnel, President Trump once again let Russia off the hook and instead insulted America's diplomats. No doubt, the President's staff will eventually try to clean up after the parade by claiming it was a joke, but there's nothing funny about this."
  • Heather Conley, former State Department official, told Reuters that the expulsions of hundreds of people from an important U.S. embassy is extraordinary and "it is very difficult to see how the president could view these expulsions as a 'positive' development in any form."
  • Rep. Don Beyer tweeted: "I served as an Ambassador under Obama. It's astonishing to see our President submissively take Putin's side against US State Dept personnel."
  • Dana Smith, a former ambassador, tweeted: "Disgusting. America Last. Again."

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”