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Evan Vucci / AP

In his second set of remarks to reporters on Thursday, President Trump said he would like to "thank" Vladimir Putin for ordering the U.S. to cut its embassy staff in Russia by 755, in response to U.S sanctions:

"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. There's no real reason for them to go back. I greatly appreciate the fact that we've been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We're going to save a lot of money."

Other key quotes, per the USA Today's Gregory Korte:
  • On the FBI raid of Paul Manafort's home: "I thought it was a very, very strong signal, or whatever. I know Mr. Manafort. Haven't spoken to him for a long time, but I know him…. I was very, very surprised to see it. I've always found Paul Manafort to be a very decent man. He's like a lot of other people, probably makes consultant fees from all over the place, who knows, I don't know, but I thought it was pretty tough stuff to wake him up, perhaps his family was there. I think that's pretty tough stuff."
  • On whether he has confidence in McMaster: "Yes, I do. General McMaster?... He's my friend and he's a very talented man. I like him and I respect him."
  • On state of relationship with Sessions: "It is what it is. It's fine. He's working hard on the border."
  • On anti-missile defenses: He said he would be announcing a plan in the next week to add billions of dollars to missile defense.
  • On leaks: He said the leaks involving national security are serious. "And then you have the leaks where people want to love me, and they're all fighting for my love. Frankly, I'm somewhat honored."
  • On Afghanistan troop levels: "We're getting close. We're getting very close. It's a very big decision for me. I took over a mess and we're going to make it a lot less messy."

Go deeper

Updated 59 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Trump received COVID vaccine at White House in January — CDC director warns "now is not the time" to lift COVID restrictions.
  2. Education: More schools are reopening in the U.S.
  3. Vaccine: J&J CEO "absolutely" confident in vaccine distribution goals Most states aren't prioritizing prisons for COVID vaccines — Vaccine hesitancy is shrinking.
  4. Economy: Apple says all U.S. stores open for the first time since start of pandemic — What's really going on with the labor market.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.
  6. World: Latin America turns to China and Russia for COVID-19 vaccines.
Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Latin America turns to China and Russia for COVID-19 vaccines

Several countries in the Americas have received their first vaccine shipments over the past few weeks — not from the regional superpower or from Western pharmaceutical giants, but from China, Russia, and in some cases India.

Why it matters: North and South America have been battered by the pandemic and recorded several of the world’s highest death tolls. Few countries other than the U.S. have the capacity to manufacture vaccines at scale, and most lack the resources to buy their way to the front of the line for imports. That’s led to a scramble for whatever supply is available.

More schools are reopening in the U.S.

Students settle into a classroom in New York City. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

More than 72% of K-12 students are now attending schools that offer in-person or hybrid models of learning.

The big picture: The U.S. is seeing an almost-universal return of schools that were in-person as of November, as well as a gradual return in parts of the country that had been virtual for almost a year.