Biden believes Putin is a ‘killer’: ‘The price he’s going to pay, you’ll see shortly’

US president’s comments follow intelligence reports linking Kremlin to extensive disinformation campaigns and influence operations targeting lawmakers and media during 2020 election

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 17 March 2021 18:28
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Biden says he believes Putin is a 'killer'
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Joe Biden said he believes Russian president Vladimir Putin is a “killer” when asked by ABC News host George Stephanopoulos.

His question follows a federal investigation into Russian-linked cyber attacks and an intelligence report linking the Kremlin to election-related online interference that promoted Donald Trump and right-wing conspiracy theories in an attempt to discredit Mr Biden.

Asked whether he believes Mr Putin is a “killer” in a pre-taped interview that aired on Wednesday, the US president responded: “I do.”

“The price he’s going to pay, you’ll see shortly,” he said.

Follow live: Russia tried to swing election for Trump, report says

Mr Biden recalled meeting Mr Putin, during which he reportedly told him that he doesn’t “have a soul”: “I wasn’t being a wise guy.”

“He looked back at me and said, ‘We understand each other’,” Mr Biden said.

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A report released on Tuesday from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence assessed that Russia sought to interfere with the 2020 presidential election with an expansive social media and online influence campaign similar to an operation from 2016.

The newly declassified report also said that a network of Ukraine-linked individuals connected to Russian intelligence relied on “prominent US persons and media conduits to launder their narratives” alleging “corrupt ties” among members of Mr Biden’s family with Ukraine.

That 2020 misinformation campaign was aimed at “denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US,” according to the report.

Mr Biden said he had warned his Russian counterpart about a potential response from the US during a call in January.

“He will pay a price,” Mr Biden said. “We had a long talk ... and the conversation started off, I said, ‘I know you and you know me. If I establish this occurred, then be prepared.’”

Mr Biden’s answer to the “killer” question contrasted with comments from Mr Trump in 2017 after the then Fox News host Bill O’Reilly asked him about Mr Putin, whom Mr Trump said he respected.

“But he’s a killer,” Mr O’Reilly responded.

“There are a lot of killers,” Mr Trump said. “You think our country’s so innocent?”

The former president has been accused of fostering a deferential relationship with Mr Putin, despite investigations into election interference and allegations of “bounties” paid by Russian intelligence officers to Taliban-linked militants against US and allied forces in Afghanistan.

Mr Biden’s broad interview with ABC News as he eclipses his 50th day in office also covered immigration and the arrival of thousands of unaccompanied children at the US-Mexico border, his views on the Senate filibuster, calls among Democrats for New York governor Andrew Cuomo to resign, the politicisation of Covid-19 vaccination efforts, and the fate of relations with Saudi Arabia following a report linking Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

With an extensive legislative agenda on voting rights, immigration, criminal justice and tax increases for the wealthy – all of which face stiff opposition from Republicans in the US Senate – Mr Biden said for the first time that he would support changing the chamber’s filibuster rule as Congress nears the point where “democracy is having a hard time functioning”.

“I don’t think that you have to eliminate the filibuster – you have to do it what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days,” Mr Biden said. “You had to stand up and command the floor. You had to keep talking.”

On Governor Cuomo, Mr Biden followed repeated White House statements in support of an independent investigation from the state’s attorney general as well as the accounts of several women and others who have alleged abuse and sexual harassment.

Asked whether he believes the governor should resign if the investigation confirms the accusations, Mr Biden said: “Yes ... I think he’ll probably end up being prosecuted, too.”

In another portion of the interview, Mr Biden said he “made it clear” to Saudi Arabia “that things were going to change” following the report on Mr Khashoggi’s killing.

“We held accountable all the people in that organisation, but not the crown prince, because we have never that I’m aware of, when we have an alliance with a country, gone to the acting head of state and punished that person and ostracised him,” he said.

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