Joe Biden hinted at being ‘controlled’ by his press advisors during a G7 summit press conference where he joked he shouldn’t be answering extra press questions or he’s ‘get in trouble’ with his staff.
Biden, known for his folksy style, spoke for 12 minutes to sum up the meeting, held in the United Kingdom.
‘Now, why don’t I take some of your questions?’ he said at the end of his remarks.
After fielding a question from the Associated Press on his plans for meeting President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Geneva, he turned to a Bloomberg reporter for his second question.
‘I’m sorry, I’m going to get in trouble with staff if I don’t do this the right way,’ he said, then calling on Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg.
He took further questions from Reuters, The Wall Street Journal and, as his final question, NBC News.
Yet as he began to walk away, more questions were shouted at him.
‘I’m going to get in trouble with my staff,’ he said, turning back to the press pack. ‘Yeah, go ahead. But I can pretend that I didn’t answer you.’
Joe Biden on Sunday held a press conference in the United Kingdom at the end of the G7 summit. The president’s team had made preparations for him to take questions from five media outlets – AP, Bloomberg, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal and NBC News. He joked that he could not stray from their list
Biden, 78, frequently jokes that he has been told by aides to stick to their script
The exchange bore echoes of a similar encounter last month at the White House.
Biden, following a series of meetings on the COVID-19 vaccine and infrastructure, chatted to the press before remarking: ‘I’m not supposed to be answering all these questions.’
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said that she frequently urged the 78-year-old to refrain from chatting with the media and taking questions.
‘He takes questions nearly every day he’s out from the press,’ Psaki said on a podcast in May.
‘That is not something we recommend. In fact, a lot of times, we say, ‘Don’t take questions.’
‘But he’s going to do what he wants to do because he’s the president of the United States.’
Biden is known for his folksy style of speaking, and of frequently worrying aides by freewheeling with his answers – straying at times from their highly-restrictive script
Biden on Sunday is seen speaking to the press at Newquay airport in Cornwall, shortly before departing the U.K.
Earlier on Sunday Biden and his wife Jill visited the Queen at Windsor Castle
Biden hugs his wife on Sunday, as he flies on to Brussels and she returns to the United States
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told a podcast in May that she frequently recommended that Biden do not take questions, but he was sometimes unable to resist
On Sunday the White House was forced to clarify that Biden is not doing any ‘swaps’ of cyber criminals with Moscow, after Biden appeared to take at face value a proposal floated by Vladimir Putin to extradite any U.S. ransom hackers to Russia in exchange for sending any Russian hackers to the U.S.
Biden entertained an idea Putin floated in a TV interview, that aired on Sunday, about extraditing ‘criminals’ who engaged in ransom hacking against either the U.S. or Russia.
It was Putin’s response to a top national security issue Biden is planning to raise at their summit on Wednesday.
Biden said he had been briefed on the idea in flight, and called it a potential sign of ‘progress’ – only to have his security advisor later note the U.S. already holds hackers to account.
Walk back: White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, right, said the U.S. was not doing ‘exchanges or swaps or anything like that,’ after President Joe Biden entertained a proposal floated by Russian President Vladimir Putin
It all happened at an event where Biden said he did not want to hold a joint press conference with Putin next week because he wasn’t interested in getting into a ‘contest’ once he raises serious issues with his counterpart.
Putin said on Sunday: ‘If we agree to extradite criminals, then of course Russia will do that, we will do that, but only if the other side, in this case the United States, agrees to the same and will extradite the criminals in question to the Russian Federation,’ according to the Interfax news agency.
Biden sounded uncharacteristically open to the idea.
‘Yes, I’m open to, if there’s crimes committed against Russia, then in fact people committing those crimes are being harbored in the United States, I’m committing to holding them accountable,’ Biden said.
But on a flight from London to Brussels, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan clarified that Biden was not contemplating any kind of a ‘swap.’
‘This is not about exchanges or swaps or anything like that,’ he said.
He also noted that people suspected of cyber crimes in the U.S. are already held accountable.
‘What the president was responding to in the affirmative was not the specific proposal of the exchange of cyber criminals,’ Sullivan said.
‘What he was saying was that if Vladimir Putin wants to come and say I‘m prepared to make sure that cyber crimes will be held accountable, Joe Biden is perfectly willing to say cyber criminals will be held accountable in America because they already are.’
He said when the U.S. knows someone is committing a cyber crime against a foreign target ‘we take action against them.’
He said Biden is ‘all in’ if Putin wants a common commitment that no country ‘will harbor cyber criminals.’
‘I don’t want to get into being diverted by did they shake hands who talked the most and the rest,’ he told reporters, President Joe Biden said when asked why he doesn’t want a side-by-side press conference with Russia’s Vladimir Putin next week
The quick walk-back was an illustration of the type of situation the White House may be trying to avoid by keeping Biden out of a joint press conference with Putin, where the Russian former KGB officer might try to steer the event to his advantage.
Biden at the presser explained why he did not want to hold a side-by-side presser with the Russian strongman.
‘This is not a contest about who can do better in front of a press conference or try to embarrass each other,’ Biden said at the end of the G7 summit.
‘It’s about making myself very clear what the conditions are to get a better relationship with Russia. We are not looking for conflict.
‘We are looking to resolve those actions which we think are inconsistent with international norms,’ he said.