Last week, the White House posted a readout of President Biden's first phone conversation with Russian President and dictator Vladimir Putin:
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. spoke today with President Vladimir Putin of Russia. They discussed both countries’ willingness to extend New START for five years, agreeing to have
their teams work urgently to complete the extension by February 5. They also agreed to explore strategic stability discussions on a range of arms control and emerging security issues. President Biden reaffirmed the United States’ firm support for Ukraine’s sovereignty. He also raised other matters of concern, including the SolarWinds hack, reports of Russia placing bounties on United States soldiers in Afghanistan, interference in the 2020 United States election, and the poisoning of Aleksey Navalny. President Biden made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies. The two presidents agreed to maintain transparent and consistent communication going forward.
Vladimar Putin, President of Russia
Unbelievably, President Trump refused to confront Putin about putting bounties on the heads of American soldiers. He also said Putin's interference in the 2016 and 2020 elections was a hoax or, in the alternative, that other countries not named Russia, such as Ukraine and China, were the ones responsible. As far as the poisoning of Russian dissident Navalny, despite American intelligence confirmation that Russia tried to have him killed, Trump tried to suggest it was unknown who was responsible. On every issue, Donald Trump went out of his way to blame everyone else but Russia and his BFF Putin. Trump's refusal to ever confront or condemn Putin led Trump's Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to conclude that Putin had compromising information on Trump. Watching the complete deference and almost fear Trump has of Putin when they were together at press conferences, certainly suggests that is a distinct possibility.
OOP short takes:
- The Trumpers in the U.S. House took it on the chin yesterday as Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney easily held off her removal from leadership for voting for Trump's impeachment. The secret ballot was 145-61. So we know now the number of Republicans in the House who truly like Donald Trump - 61. There are about 135 Republicans who are only supportive of Trump because they're concerned about retaliation at the polls by Trump's cult. If impeachment conviction votes were secret, Trump would have been removed on the first impeachment, and certainly on the second one.
- Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl) was convinced the Trumpers had the votes to remove Cheney in the House. Today, Gaetz is walking around with pie on his face. As an attorney, I find it embarrassing for the legal profession that Gaetz and Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who are both lawyers, also happen to be two of the dumbest members of the U.S. House.
- Speaking of dumb, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made the decision to do absolutely nothing about trying to distance his caucus from the smear of being associated with conspiracy enthusiast and Trump favorite Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Qanon). Today, the House will vote on removing her from her two committees, thus ensuring every Republican House member has to go on record voting for or against her. If they vote against Greene, they could get a primary challenger from the kooky GOP conspiracy wing If they vote for her, the Democrats will smear them with their vote. If only the House Republicans had an actual leader. Instead, they have McCarthy.
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell knew what the Democrats were up to, and went to the Senate floor to condemn Greene in the most harsh terms. McConnell wanted to make sure Republican Senators did not have to take a bullet for Rep. Greene. But McConnell is much, much smarter than McCarthy.
- Trump told so many lies during his presidency, that it's kind of remarkable that the one time he told the truth was when he refused to promise a peaceful transition of power if he lost.
- During his debate with Biden, Trump told the Proud Boys white supremacist group to "stand by." That phrase is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “to hold oneself in readiness, be prepared (for something, to do something); often imperative = be ready." The Proud Boys had every reason to believe Trump was giving them instructions to wait to see what happened with the election before taking action. After Trump lost, the Proud Boys took that action, playing a major role in the assault on the Capitol and the attempt, through violent means, to overturn Biden's win.
- The House impeachment managers are asking that Trump testify at his trial. Well, that would be a train wreck and is unlikely to happen. Trump is no Oliver North.
- Voting technology company Smartmatic is suing Fox News, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell. I'm very leery of big companies suing private individuals for speech criticizing those big companies. But if there was ever a time such a defamation lawsuit was warranted, this is it.