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May 24, 2022 4:46 pm

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Michael Novakhov - SharedNewsLinks℠

Biden contradicts aides, reaffirms call for Putin’s overthrow


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from Steven Nelson | New York Post.

President Biden contradicted his own staff Monday by insisting he did not regret or retract his spontaneous call from over the weekend for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be removed from power in response to his invasion of Ukraine.

“I’m not walking anything back,” Biden told reporters at the White House during an unscripted Q&A — after his subordinates strenuously walked back Biden’s initial, ad-libbed remarks.

“I was expressing the moral outrage that I felt,” the president went on, adding: “I wasn’t then, nor am I now, articulating a policy change. I was expressing the moral outrage that I feel and I make no apologies for it.”

When pressed by reporters to more fully explain his stance, Biden said, “I was talking to the Russian people. The last part of the speech was talking to the Russian people, telling them what we thought.”

On Saturday, Biden ended a widely watched speech in Poland by saying of Putin, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”

Shortly after that remark, an unnamed White House aide said in a rushed statement to reporters: “The President’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region. He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”

On Sunday, White House chief of staff Ron Klain retweeted a message from CNN White House correspondent John Harwood that said Biden’s remark showed a “significant lapse in discipline,” while the president told reporters upon leaving church that same day that “no” he wasn’t calling for regime change in Russia.

But during an uncontrolled series of exchanges with reporters in the White House State Dining Room Monday, Biden doubled down on his original remark.

“I guess it was expressing my outrage. He shouldn’t remain in power,” Biden said during the occasionally contentious questioning. “Just like you know, bad people shouldn’t continue to do bad things. But it doesn’t mean we’ll have a fundamental policy to do anything to take Putin down in any way.”

PBS reporter Lisa Desjardins pressed the 79-year-old president, who spent 36 years as a senator and eight years as vice president, on the implications of his words.

“You have more foreign policy experience than any president who has ever held this office,” Desjardins said. “Whether those are your personal feelings or your feelings as president, do you understand why people would believe you — as someone commanding one of the largest nuclear arsenals in the world — saying someone cannot remain in power is a statement of US policy? Are you concerned about the propaganda use of those remarks by the Russians?”

“No and no,” Biden said flatly.

“Tell me why. You have so much experience. You are the leader of this country,” Desjardins pressed.

“Because it’s ridiculous. Nobody believes we’re going to take down, that I was talking about taking down Putin,” Biden growled. “Nobody believes that, number one. Number two, what have I been talking about since this all began? The only war that’s worse than one intended is one that’s unintended. The last thing I want to do is engage in a land war or a nuclear war with Russia.”

Biden continued, “It’s more an aspiration than anything. He shouldn’t be in power. There’s no  — I mean, people like this shouldn’t be ruling countries, but they do. The fact is they do, but it doesn’t mean I can’t express my outrage about it.”

A second reporter then asked Biden about whether Putin might cite the US president’s words to unleash even more carnage.

“You’ve said that you’re confident that your comment won’t undermine diplomatic efforts. But just to be clear, are you confident that Vladimir Putin sees it that way? That he will not use this as an escalatory —?” the reporter asked.

“I don’t care what he thinks,” Biden snapped. “Look, here’s the deal, he’s going to do what he’s going to do.”

The reporter followed up: “But you’re not concerned that he may see your language and view that as a sign of a reason for escalation and use that as an excuse to escalate, given his recent behavior?

Biden began to be answer before halting himself, apparently to regain his composure.

“Given his recent behavior, you should — excuse me, I shouldn’t say that to you,” the president said, before continuing: “Given his recent behavior, people should understand that he is going to do what he thinks he should do, period. He’s not affected by anybody else, including, unfortunately, apparently his own advisors. This is a guy who goes to the beat of his own drummer.”

“The idea that he is going to do something outrageous because I called him for what he was and what he’s doing, I think is just not rational,” Biden concluded.

Biden’s trip to Europe was marred by a series of imprecise remarks.

On Friday, the White House rushed to walk back Biden’s statement to US troops in Poland implying that they were going into Ukraine.

“You’re going to see when you’re there, and some of you have been there, you’re gonna see — you’re gonna see women, young people standing in the middle in front of a damned tank just saying, ‘I’m not leaving, I’m holding my ground,’” Biden said.

A White House official quickly clarified that Biden wasn’t changing his stance on deploying the military into Ukraine, saying: “The president has been clear we are not sending US troops to Ukraine and there is no change in that position.”

Biden attempted to further clarify that statement Monday by telling reporters that he was referring to American troops training Ukrainian soldiers in Poland.

During a 19-minute press conference in Belgium Thursday, Biden said that the US response to Russian troops using chemical weapons “would depend on the nature of the use” — then turned heads by saying the US would respond “in kind.”

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Friday aboard Air Force One that Biden’s “in kind” remark was not meant as a threat of the US using chemical weapons against Russia.

“The United States has no intention of using chemical weapons, period, under any circumstance,” Sullivan said.

Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy confronted Biden over those statements, asking: “Are you worried that other leaders in the world are going to start to doubt that America is back if some of these big things that you said on the world stage keep getting walked back?”

 “What’s getting walked back?” Biden asked. 

“It sounded like you told US troops they were going to Ukraine,” Doocy recounted, “It sounded like you said it was possible the US could use a chemical weapon, and it sounded like you were calling for regime change in Russia, and we know –” 

“None of the three occurred,” Biden insisted. “None of the three. You interpret the language that way. I was talking to the troops — we’re talking about helping train the troops in, that are — the Ukrainian troops that are in Poland. That’s the context. I sat there with those guys for a couple hours. That’s what we talked about.”

“So when you said, ‘You’re going to see when you’re there,’” Doocy began, “you were not intending –“

“I was referring to, with — being with and talking with the Ukrainian troops who are in Poland,” the president contended. 

“And when you said a chemical weapon used by Russia would trigger a response ‘in kind,’” Doocy prompted.

“It will trigger a significant response,” Biden said.

“What does that mean?” the reporter asked. 

“I’m not going to tell you,” the president shot back. “Why would I tell you? You got to be silly.”

“The world wants to know,” Doocy insisted. 

“The world wants to know a lot of things,” Biden said. “I’m not telling them what the response would be. Then Russia knows the response.”

There was no immediate response from the State Department to Biden’s latest remarks on Monday. Sullivan was supposed to field questions from reporters at a briefing shortly after Biden finished speaking, but he didn’t show up for reasons that went unexplained to assembled journalists.