10 Things in Politics: Biden and Putin's dueling press conferences

10 Things in Politics: Biden and Putin's dueling press conferences
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·6 min read
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Welcome back to 10 Things in Politics. Sign up here to receive this newsletter. Send tips to bgriffiths@insider.com or tweet me at @BrentGriffiths.

  • Programming note: There will be no newsletter tomorrow as Insider observes Juneteenth. I will then be on vacation next week enjoying the College World Series. We have some great guest authors who will fill in starting Tuesday. Thanks again for waking up with us!

Here's what we're talking about:

One thing to watch for: President Joe Biden, joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, is expected to sign into law legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday. (While the Senate passed it unanimously, 14 House Republicans voted against creating the holiday.)

With Jordan Erb

Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden preparing to shake hands.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden before their summit at the Villa la Grange in Geneva on Wednesday. Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

1. TAKEAWAYS FROM THE SUMMIT: Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin left Geneva roughly where they were before. Both sides downplayed expectations before the meeting, and true to form it yielded no major breakthroughs - though the leaders did agree to return their respective ambassadors to their posts after recalling them. Biden told reporters it would take half a year or longer to see whether Putin heeded concerns about cyberattacks from Russia, the jailing and killing of dissidents, or military aggression in Ukraine.

  • Key quote: "This is not about trust. This is about self-interest," Biden told reporters. "This is not a kumbaya moment."

The pair's dueling news conferences made clear where divisions remain:

  • On human rights: Putin scoffed at reporters who asked about his human-rights record, raising the familiar tactic of whataboutism by bringing up everything from Black Lives Matter protesters to the deadly Capitol riot to Guantánamo Bay. "That's a ridiculous comparison," Biden rejoined later of the riot comparison.

  • On cyberattacks: Putin claimed most cyberattacks originated from North America. Biden told reporters he presented Putin with a list of 16 sectors, including agriculture and financial services, that the US considered off-limits from attacks. The two sides agreed to discuss the issue further. Biden told reporters he pointed out to Putin that the US had "significant cybercapability," a not-so-subtle reference to offensive capabilities that leaders are usually shy talking about.

Related: The most memorable and bizarre lines from Putin's whirlwind press conference

Both leaders did say they accomplished something: "I did what I came to do," Biden told reporters. Putin called the discussion "fruitful," but when asked whether it was a new chapter in relations between the two countries he dropped a quote often attributed to Leo Tolstoy. "There is no happiness in life, there's only a mirage on the horizon, so we'll cherish that."

Mike Crapo
Republican Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

2. Here is what $15,000 will buy lobbyists from Sen. Mike Crapo: A detailed list from Crapo's campaign obtained by Insider shows the extent to which the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee offers pay-to-play deliverables for prospective donors. "Particularly vulgar" is how one reform advocate described the document, which offers top-level contributors no fewer than seven exclusive events with the senator.

3. Ten Democrats and 11 Republicans signed onto a bipartisan infrastructure deal: None of the details have been publicly released, but the plan calls for about $974 billion in infrastructure spending over five years, The Washington Post reports. A significant portion of the proposal would be paid for with repurposed funds, but disagreements still remain about indexing the gas tax. Even as senators tried to garner support for the plan, Senate Democrats continued to move forward with a second option that would stiff-arm Republicans.

People in the water the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek in Denver.
People cooling off in the water at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek in Denver on Monday. AP Photo/Brittany Peterson

4. An eighth of the US population is under a heat dome: Over 40 million people are on alert in the Western US during a lethal heat wave, CNN reports. Upward of 300 record-high temperature marks could be broken. Salt Lake City, whose records go back to 1874, experienced just its third 107-degree day in its history, which came during three days of triple-digit highs.

5. The Fed moved up its timeline for rate hikes: The central bank previously placed its first forecast interest-rate hikes past 2023, signaling it was willing to let inflation run hot to let the US economy recover faster, The Wall Street Journal reports. Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell said the timing of such a move remained uncertain. Powell said he continued to believe the spike in inflation would soon subside.

6. Sanders says he's "delighted" DeSantis cribbed ones of his ideas: Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has been pressuring the Biden administration to let the Sunshine State import cheaper drugs from Canada. And he has the blessing of one of the unlikeliest of people: Sen. Bernie Sanders, one of the Senate's most liberal members. "If people want to steal them, I'm delighted," Sanders told Insider. He wants to see even more states join in.

Donald Trump, Allen Weisselberg, and Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower.
Donald Trump, Allen Weisselberg, and Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower in New York. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

7. The Manhattan DA reportedly hasn't flipped the would-be star witness in its Trump investigation: Prosecutors are still trying to secure the cooperation of Allen Weisselberg in their criminal investigation into the Trump Organization, The New York Times reported, and are said to be weighing whether to bring charges against him as soon as this summer. Legal experts told Insider the chief financial officer might be holding out for prosecutors to offer him the best possible deal.

8. Abbott says Texas will spend $250 million to build its own border wall: Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that Texas would build a wall on land owned by the state and areas provided by volunteers who surrendered their land. He also demanded that the Biden administration return land taken by the Trump administration for its border wall. Texas is also accepting donations to pay for the project.

9. Rep. Matt Gaetz's former staffers are scrubbing their résumés: At least 25 of Gaetz's former congressional staffers don't mention the Republican congressman by name on their LinkedIn pages, according to an Insider analysis. They include some high-ranking staffers: two former Gaetz chiefs of staff and two former legislative directors.

10. You might be able to have a European summer vacation after all: European Union member states agreed to lift COVID-19 travel restrictions and allow nonessential travel from the US soon (Reuters reported that the change could take place within days).

  • News you can use: We put together a travel-safety guide for keeping your stress level - and infection risk - low. From where to sit on an airplane (or where not to sit) to what kinds of flights to book. Here are expert tips on traveling safely.

Today's trivia question: Today marks the anniversary of the Statue of Liberty arriving in New York Harbor. In addition to being a beacon for tourists, what function did the statue briefly serve before the government agency in charge of it decided it wasn't worth the trouble? Email your guess and a suggested question to me at bgriffiths@insider.com.

That's all! Have a great weekend!

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