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Trump Thanked Putin For Kicking Out US Diplomats And 7 Other Things He Actually Told Reporters

"Nobody has greater respect for intelligence than Donald Trump," President Donald Trump said.

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Trump is still vacationing at his private golf club in Bedminster, but he was meeting with top members of his administration to address some of the more pertinent issues that have come up in recent days, including rising tensions with North Korea.

Earlier on Thursday, Trump said his comments promising "fire and fury" upon North Korea "maybe [weren't] tough enough."

And in a second conversation with reporters, he certainly did not back off his comments.

He was also asked about his relationship with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whether he is considering removing special counsel Robert Mueller from the Russia investigation, and the administration's intent to crack down on leaks.

Here are some of the more bizarre excerpts from the 20-minute press briefing:

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REPORTER: Sir, why did you decide to announce the transgender ban reversal a couple of weeks ago? And are you betraying a community that you pledged to support?

TRUMP: No, in fact I have great respect for the community. I think I had great, or I have had great, support from that community. I got a lot of votes. But the transgender, the military is working on it now. They're doing the work. It's been a very difficult situation, and I think I'm doing a lot of people a favor by coming out and just saying it. As you know, it's a very complicated issue for the military, and I think I'm doing the military a great favor.

Of course, Trump's announcement in a tweet was met with widespread condemnation on the left, and left top military leaders scrambling to reassure their troops. Five transgender troops have also filed a lawsuit.

2. His response to Russian President Vladimir Putin expelling hundreds of American diplomatic staff: "I want to thank him because we're trying to cut down on payroll."

REPORTER: Mr. President, do you have any response to the Russian president expelling 755 workers from our embassy?

TRUMP: No, I want to thank him because we're trying to cut down on 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. So I greatly appreciate the fact that they have been able to cut our payroll for the United States. We'll save a lot of money.

However, Putin's demand that the US cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 people had nothing to do with payroll. The decision was a response to US sanctions imposed by the US for Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The staff reduction has been yet another signal of souring relations between the US and Russia. US Ambassador John F. Tefft described the move as reminiscent of Cold War tactics.

Trump on Thursday, however, signaled that he is unwilling to publicly criticize the Russian president.

3. His thoughts on the FBI's raid of former campaign manager Paul Manafort's home: "I thought it was a very, very strong signal, or whatever."

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FBI agents conducted a predawn raid last month at the home of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

The raid occurred after special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly started using a grand jury in his investigation of Russian meddling in the presidential election and whether there was collusion with the Trump campaign.

Trump's attorney John Dowd called the raid a "gross abuse of the judicial process" that was done for "shock value."

REPORTER: Was it appropriate for the FBI to raid the home of Paul Manafort predawn?

TRUMP: I thought it was a very, very strong signal, or whatever. I know Mr. Manafort. I haven't spoken to him in a long time, but I know him. He was with the campaign as you know a relatively short period of time, a relatively short period of time. But I have known him to be a very good man. I thought it was very, you know, they do that very seldom. So I was surprised to see it. I was very, very surprised to see it.

REPORTER: Have you spoken to the FBI director about it?

TRUMP: No, I have not. I have not. But to do that early in the morning whether or not it was appropriate, you'd have to ask them. I have always found Paul Manafort to be a very decent man. And he's like a lot of other people probably makes consultant fees from all over the place. Who knows. To wake him up, perhaps his family was there. I think that's tough stuff.

REPORTER: Mr. President, speaking of the attorney general, how would you categorize your relationship with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and have you spoken about the differences you have had in the past?

TRUMP: It's fine. It is what it is. It's fine. He's working hard on the border. I'm proud of what we have done on the border. I'm proud of General [John] Kelly and one of the reasons he's my chief of staff right now is because he did an outstanding job at the border.

Of course, anyone who has been monitoring the president's tweets in recents weeks knows Sessions has been in the crosshairs of Trump's ire, particularly for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

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After Trump promised "fire and fury" in response to North Korean aggression, Pyongyang reportedly said it was working on a military plan to aim missiles at the waters around the US territory of Guam.

The plan was to be completed sometime in mid-August for North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.

REPORTER: Mr. President, are you going to increase the U.S. Military presence in Egypt?

TRUMP: We are going to look what's happening in Asia. We're looking at it right now. I don't like to signal what I'm going to be doing, but we are certainly looking at it. Obviously we're spending a lot of time looking at in particular North Korea. And we are preparing for many different alternative events at North Korea. He has disrespected our country greatly. He has said things that are horrific. And with me he's not getting away with it. He got away with it for a long time between him and his family. He's not getting away with it. It's a whole new ball game. And he's not going to be saying those things and he certainly is not going to be doing those things. I read about in Guam by August 15. Let's see what he does with Guam. He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before.

REPORTER: And when you say that, what do you mean?

TRUMP: You'll see. You'll see. And he will see. He will see. It's not a dare. It's a statement. It has nothing to do with dare. That's a statement. He's not going to go around threatening Guam and he's not going to threaten the United States and he's not going to threaten Japan. And he's not going to threaten South Korea. No, that's not a dare as you say. That is a statement of fact.

REPORTER: Mr. President, can you talk about the nuclear posture and what your priorities are there?

TRUMP: Number one, I would like to de-nuke the world. I know that president Obama said global warming is the biggest threat. I totally disagree. I say that it's a simple one -nuclear is our greatest threat worldwide. Not even a question, not even close. So I'd like to de-nuke the world. I would like Russia and the United States and China and Pakistan and many other countries that have nuclear weapons get rid of them. But until such time as they do, we will be the most powerful nuclear nation on Earth, by far. The first order I gave to my generals as you know, you know, Mike, my first order was I want this, our nuclear arsenal, to be the biggest and the finest in the world. And we spent a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of effort. And it's in tiptop shape and getting better. And it's in tiptop shape and getting better. And getting stronger. And until such time as this scourge disappears we will be so much better and so much stronger than anybody else. And nobody including North Korea is going to be threatening us with anything.

REPORTER: Sir, what specifically have you changed in the nuclear arsenal and the reason I ask that is a lot of experts yesterday in response to your tweets said that modernizing the arsenal takes many years. It can't be done in six months it's a long process that's only just begun.

TRUMP: We have done a lot of modernization and we have done a lot of renovation. We have it now in very, very good shape. It will be in much better shape over the next six months to the year.

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REPORTER: Mr. President, what's the latest on the leak investigation that the attorney general announced late last week and any separate investigation that you're...

TRUMP: Yeah, we're always looking. You have the leaking coming out of intelligence and various departments having to do with Syria. Having to do with all sorts of different places. Having to do frankly with North Korea, and those are very serious. Then you have the leaks where people want to love me and they're all fighting for love. Those are not very important, but certainly we don't like them. Those are little inner White House leaks. They're not very important, but actually I'm somewhat honored by them. But the important leaks to me, and the leaks that the attorney general is looking at very strongly, are the leaks coming out of intelligence, and we have to stop them for the security and the national security of our country.

REPORTER: Mr. President, you were critical of the intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq War. Should we trust the intelligence now on North Korea?

TRUMP: Well, you know, it's different intelligence. I have Mike Pompeo. I have great confidence in him. That doesn't mean I had confidence in his predecessor. Okay? Which I didn't, actually. But I have tremendous confidence in Mike Pompeo. Dan Coates, fantastic. I mean, we have people. Your new head of the FBI, I think I've done a great service for this country. I think that Christopher will do a fantastic job as the head of the FBI. So, look, I have, nobody has greater respect for intelligence than Donald Trump, but you have to have the right leaders. I think we have great leaders right now. And, you know, you can look at the intelligence over the years. It was intelligence that got people to make one of the worst decisions ever made in the history of our country, going into Iraq, because they said there were no weapons, you know, you look at it. It ended up being there were no weapons of mass destruction. If you listen to them, weapons of mass destruction were all over the place, but they were not there. That was intelligence. I have great respect for intelligence as led by the people that I have in charge now. We have great people, and I think it's going to lead us to tremendous victories. And that's what we need.

REPORTER: What is that intelligence telling you about North Korea?

TRUMP: It's telling me a lot of things, but — well, you'll probably find out about it before anybody else, right? With your leaks. We've got to stop the leaks. The leaks are very dangerous to our country. No. I have great respect for the intelligence community, and I think with the leadership we have right now, hopefully it will be a very, very successful eight years for this country. And then after that we'll continue onward. But we have a lot of things we have to straighten out. You have the Middle East. You have North Korea. We have a lot of place of tremendous conflict and tremendous danger for this country. I will say getting the 15–0 vote at the United Nations from the Security Council the other day, that's something that very few presidents would have been able to get. And I have great respect for the fact that China and Russia went along with it. That was a tremendous day for the United States. I think it will have a strong impact on North Korea. I don't know that it will be the end-all, but I think it will be a very, very, I think it will have a big impact on North Korea and what they're doing.

Salvador Hernandez is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Salvador Hernandez at salvador.hernandez@buzzfeed.com.

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