As it happenedended1648907196

Biden news: Harris says US ‘not into regime change’ but won’t say whether she agrees Putin must go

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Jen Psaki responds to resignation rumours

President Joe Biden delivered remarks this morning hailing another successful jobs reports that sees employment return to pre-pandemic levels and unemployment to drop to a level not seen since 1969.

While inflation remains a huge concern to Americans, Mr Biden has also ordered the release of up 1 million barrels of oil per day from the strategic petroleum reserve for the next six months in a bid to control prices that have spiked since the US and its allies imposed strict sanctions on Russia after it began its war on Ukraine.

Answering questions from reporters on Thursday, Mr Biden said Russian president Vladimir Putin “seems to be self-isolated and there’s some indication that he has fired or put under house arrest some of his advisers”.

Meanwhile, new reports say that White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will leave her post this spring to take up a job at MSNBC. It had long been speculated that Ms Psaki would be leaving the administration soon after more than a year in the role.

At Friday’s press briefing Ms Psaki refused to comment on her plans, other than to say she that if she left she would spend time with her children and would sleep.

Pressed on if she could do be an effective briefer with plans to join a media outlet Ms Psaki said she is abiding by all ethics rules and legal requirements.

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New federal website launches to streamline Covid treatment

The Biden administration has launched a new federal website, covid.gov, as part of a larger strategy to shift gears into a phase of the pandemic likened to the “new normal”.

“This website is part of our effort – our continued and ongoing effort — to make sure that people have what they need to deal with Covid as we move into potentially the next phase of this disease,” the White House said on Wednesday.

Johanna Chisholm reports.

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Biden calls out oil companies profiting on Putin’s war

President Joe Biden has called out oil companies who have sat by and enjoyed higher profits as the price of oil has soared during Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.

The president announced a “use it or lose it” policy for oil leases on federal land, to push companies “to step up for the good of the country” and provide relief for customers, not executives and shareholders.

In addition, as announced earlier, the president will authorise the release of one million barrels of oil per day for six months while domestic production ramps up to bring prices down at the pump.

“My plan is going to help ease that pain today.”

Mr Biden also announced a directive to strengthen the green energy economy by utilising the Defense Production Act for rare earth minerals as part of a longer term strategy to ween America off foreign oil.

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Biden says Putin ‘self-isolating’, is skeptical Russian forces pulling back

In shouted questions following the announcement regarding gas prices, President Biden is asked about Vladimir Putin.

“He seems to be self-isolating and there’s some indication he has fired, or put under house arrest, his advisers,” he said, adding, “but I don’t want to put too much stock in at this time because we don’t have that much hard evidence.”

On whether Russia is pulling back its forces in Ukraine, he says: “It’s an open question” and there is “no clear evidence”, adding “I’m a skeptic”.

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FBI: Hackers targeted US election officials with phishing email campaign

Hackers likely targeted US election officials with an invoice-themed phishing email campaign in an attempt to gain access to their systems, according to the FBI.

An advisory issued by the bureau this week warns election administrators and state and local government officials about a malicious email scheme that federal law enforcement believes is part of a “concerted effort to target US election officials.”

Similar threats “will likely continue or increase their targeting of US election officials with phishing campaigns in the lead-up to the 2022 US midterm elections,” according to the FBI.

Alex Woodward reports.

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Biden calls for ‘use it or lose it’ policy for oil leases on federal land: ‘I say, enough’

President Joe Biden on Thursday slammed oil companies for refusing to increase production to make up shortfalls caused by the removal of Russian oil from US markets.

Calling the crisis stemming from Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine “a moment of crisis and peril for the world and pain at the pump for American families,” Mr Biden said the spike in oil and gas prices brought on by the US ban on Russian oil could be “a moment of patriotism” for domestic oil producers.

Andrew Feinberg has the latest for The Independent from Washington DC.

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The next Jen Psaki?

Kate Bedingfield’s debut in the White House press briefing room this week came under unlikely circumstances — the benching of two of her colleagues due to Covid-19 — but could lead to greater visibility for Joe Biden’s longtime comms director.

“I know I am not the redhead you’re accustomed to seeing at this podium, but I hope you will hang with me nonetheless,” Ms Bedingfield, 40, joked to reporters at her first briefing on Tuesday.

John Bowden reports from Washington, DC.

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Live - White House Director of Communications Kate Bedingfield holds briefing

Watch live as White House Director of Communications Kate Bedingfield holds briefing
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Jeopardy! champion Amy Schneider visits press room

On Trans Day of Visibility, Jeopardy! champion Amy Schneider received a tour of the West Wing and visited the press room.

Per White House pooler Scott Bixby of The Daily Beast:

Amy Schneider, the first woman to ever win more than $1 million on Jeopardy!, visited the White House briefing room before today’s briefing to highlight the administration’s observance of the International Transgender Day of Visibility, “to be visible, I suppose,” she said.

Schneider, who is transgender, told reporters that the recent spate of legislation prohibiting transgender children from participating in school sports or barring teachers from discussing LGBT issues is “really scary.”

“Some of them in particular that are denying medical services to trans youth,” Schneider said, are ”really sad to me and it’s really frightening.”

Schneider met with Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff earlier today, per the wranglers, and will be meeting with transgender youth to mark the day.

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Biden says Putin appears to be ‘self-isolating’ from advisers

President Joe Biden claimed on Thursday that Vladimir Putin appears to be “self-isolating” from his closest advisers including his top intelligence officials as his invasion of Ukraine appears to be largely stalled across the country.

In an address announcing efforts to lower gas prices, which the US have blamed on the efforts to divest from Russian oil as well as inflation, the president explained that he didn’t “want to put too much stock” in the reports but essentially confirmed reporting that has for weeks indicated that a major rift exists between Mr Putin and his top aides and strategists.

John Bowden has the latest.

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NEC director answers questions on release of oil reserves

National Economic Council Director Brian Deese is speaking at the White House daily briefing and is addressing the release of one million barrels a day from strategic petroleum reserve.

He confirms that the US has “the operational capacity to do that” and the oil will be released from all four national storage locations.

Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese speaks during a briefing in the James S Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House

“Our goal is to provide relief to all Americans in all geographies across the country.”

Mr Deese does admit that the market price of oil is impossible to predict with certainty. He also declined to name names as to which companies are profiteering.

The administration feels that the current situation shows America must move towards energy security and true energy independence. That will involve reducing the dependence on fossil fuels.

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