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POLITICO Playbook: Biden and Putin speak again at ‘moment of crisis’

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POLITICO Playbook: Biden and Putin speak again at ‘moment of crisis’

President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir PutinWill speakContact us today by phone The call was requested by PutinAlthough he is open to chatting, there are some mysteries surrounding his motivation. | Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo

It’s a slow news day, which is good news to your Playbook team, where two ofWe are dealing with one ofThe random aspects ofThis latest covid spike: Homes in which one person tested positive and everyone else is not (so far).

THE BIDEN-PUTIN CALL — President Joe BidenWho is it? atToday, in Wilmington, we will speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin Putin at 3:30. It’s their second conversation since Dec. 7, when they held a video call to discuss tensions over Putin’s military buildup around Ukraine.

Today’s call was requested by Putin andThe White House decided to make the summit a public event. A senior administration official briefed reporters yesterday afternoon, the NSC’s spokesperson released a statement about the call, andThe only thing that matters is the phone Biden’s public schedule today.

There’s some mystery about the reason for Putin’s request to chat. NYT’s David Sanger and Andrew Kramer note that in Washington foreign policy circles there’s speculation that the call could be about Putin backing down and “trying to de-escalate a situation largely of his own creation.”

However, it could be the reverse. PutinIt could be “seeking a response to a series of demands about Russian security concerns that, if left unfulfilled, may provide him with a pretext to initiate the military action he has threatened in Ukrainian territory.”

A senior administration official offered little more clarity to what’s motivating Putin:

“I cannot speak to why the Russian side has requested this call. I would only observe that over the course of the past year, we’ve requested calls with President Putin; President Putin has requested calls with President Biden.”

The White House’s language about the Russian build-up is alarming. According to a senior administration official, “we are at a moment of crisis,”Since then, the Russian military presence in Ukraine has not slowed down. Biden and Putin’s last call, andIt is. “remains a continuing source of grave concern.”

The official stated that BidenReiterating that a Russian invasion of Ukraine was dangerous, I believe it is important to emphasize again. PutinTo cross: “President Biden will also make clear when he speaks with President Putin that we are prepared for diplomacy and for a diplomatic path forward, but we are also prepared to respond if Russia advances with a further invasion of Ukraine.”

COVID UPDATE

— NYT notes that the U.S. set a one-day record on Wednesday for new cases (nearly half a million): “The staggering figure is almost twice as high as the worst days of last winter, although hospitalizations are not rising as fast.”

— WaPo reports that the BidenThe administration is split over whether vaccine booster shot should be available to everyone. The story shows a fight between science and politics. BidenThe world has some of the president’s advisers pushing boosters as the best way to get past the current surge, focus on the economy, andPrioritize improving the political climate ofThe midterms. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, Director of the CDC, expressed concern that boosters might not be advisable for all.

“Walensky’s skittishness reflects the attitude of some CDC officials and advisers who are not convinced that young, healthy people need additional protection, especially since the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been linked to a rare cardiac side effect in male teenagers and young men. They also note that focusing on boosters may distract front-line personnel from the more critical effort to defeat the pandemic, which is to get the first shots to unvaccinated people.”

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MUST-READ OF THE DAY: The WSJ’s five byline investigative blockbuster about Facebook by Keach Hagey, Georgia Wells, Emily Glazer, Deepa Seetharaman, Jeff Horwitz, “Facebook’s Pushback: Stem the Leaks, Spin the Politics, Don’t Say Sorry”

Here’s the lede: “The day after former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen went public in October, the company’s team in Washington started working the phones.

“To lawmakers and advocacy groups on the right, according to people familiar with the conversations, their message was that Ms. Haugen was trying to help Democrats. Within hours, several conservative news outlets published stories alleging Ms. Haugen was a Democratic activist.

“Later, Facebook lobbyists warned Democratic staffers that Republicans were focused on the company’s decision to ban expressions of support for Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who killed two people during unrest in Kenosha, Wis., and who was later acquitted of homicide and other charges.

“The company’s goal, according to Republicans and Democrats familiar with the company’s outreach, was to muddy the waters, divide lawmakers along partisan lines and forestall a cross-party alliance that was emerging to enact tougher rules on social-media companies in general and Facebook in particular.”

SEE YOU IN THE METAVERSE — Finally, one of those VR headsets made an appearance in Ryan’s house over Christmas so we were especially intrigued by this pair ofToday’s Times articles:

— “Everybody Into the Metaverse! Virtual Reality Beckons Big Tech.”

— “The Metaverse’s Dark Side: Here Come Harassment and Assaults”

Good Thursday morning. We appreciate you reading Playbook. Drop us a note andTell us about your favourite Oculus Quest apps: Tara Palmeri, Eugene Daniels and Ryan Lizza.

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BIDEN’S THURSDAY: The president will hold a phone call with Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN at 3:30 p.m.

THE SENATE andTHE HOUSE is out.

PHOTOS OF THE YEAR

A U.S. soldier holds a sign indicating a gate is closed as hundreds of people gather some holding documents, near an evacuation control checkpoint on the perimeter of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021.

A U.S. soldier displays a sign indicating that a gate is closed from the outside ofThe Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 26, 2021.Wali Sabawoon/AP Photo | Wali Sabawoon/AP Photo

A U.S. Chinook helicopter flies over the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021.

The U.S. Chinook helicopter hovers above Kabul, Afghanistan’s U.S. Embassy. | Rahmat Gul/AP Photo

A carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, on Aug. 29, 2021, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Hoover died in an attack at Afghanistan's Kabul airport, along with 12 other U.S. service members.

A transport team moves a case that contains the remains. ofA Marine Corps staff sergeant. | Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo

ALL POLITICS

WALKER’S DILEMMA — Former North Carolina Rep. MARK WALKER (R) is “stuck in political no man’s land,”Natalie Allison reports from Greensboro. In a Senate primary against Trump-endorsed Rep. Ted Budding, he was a distant third andFormer Gov. PAT McCRORY: Walker received a private endorsement from Trump in exchange for his support if he ran for a House seat. Problem: The new seat is being challenged in court andCould be redrawn heavily Democratic. Now Walker — a pol who Allison writes “just isn’t interested in following the conventional rulebook for the game of politics” — is “once again a candidate in search of a race he can win.”

EYES ON MICHIGAN — Republicans are attempting to recruit JOHN JAMES, an Army veteran, to run for one of Michigan’s newly drawn districts. James ran for the state’s Senate seat in both 2018 and2020, but lost both. “Recruiting James has been a top priority of House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY. And the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC with close ties to GOP leadership, commissioned a poll that shows James significantly ahead of two sitting Democratic representatives in potential matchups in the new district,”Zach Montellaro andAlly Mutnick report.

— While The Detroit News reported Tuesday that James is “strongly considering” a run for the state’s newly-created 10th district, he is also being pushed to run for governor. The final decision will be made in January. and “he hasn’t ruled anything out.”

— And NYT’s Nick Corasaniti notes that the approved redrawn map ofThe state allows for more competition in a state that has had Republican safe majorities for many years. The map “creates districts so competitive that Democrats have a fighting chance of recapturing the State Senate for the first time since 1984. … and the congressional map includes three tossup seats where the 2020 presidential margin was less than five points, and two more seats that could be competitive in a wave year, with presidential margins of less than 10 points.”

HAPPENING IN SLOW MOTION — Trump-supporting Republicans are running for statewide election offices that will play important roles in the 2024 presidential election. And AP’s Nick Riccardi reports that “while the effort is incomplete and uneven, outside experts on democracy and Democrats are sounding alarms, warning that the U.S. is witnessing a ‘slow-motion insurrection’ with a better chance of success than Trump’s failed power grab last year. … Experts say another baseless challenge to an election has become more likely, not less.”

CONGRESS

MONEY WHERE THEIR MOUTHS ARE — Georgia Republican Reps. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE andANDREW CLYDE and JOSHUA CLYDE were both docked $100,000 each for failing to comply with the House floor mask-wearing requirements. NYT’s Luke Broadwater notes that “Ms. Greene has been fined more than 30 times for violating the mask rules, accumulating more than $80,000 in penalties. Only 20 of Ms. Greene’s fines, totaling nearly $50,000, have been announced by the Ethics Committee. Mr. Clyde has been fined at least 14 times for violating the mask rule, accruing at least $30,000 in penalties.”The fines are straight out ofThey get their salaries.

POLICY CENTER

FOR YOUR RADAR — Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is turning up the heat on the BidenThe administration continues its spat over whether the impending 5G tech rollout could jeopardize aviation safety, Daniel Lippman and Oriana Pawlyk scoop for POLITICO Pro. Collins, the ranking member of the Senate approps committee in charge oftransportation wrote to Pete Buttigieg, Transportation Secretary, requesting that the rollout be stopped until agencies can ensure that passenger planes are not endangered.

“While I understand the effort to deploy 5G services quickly, I do not believe the safety of our aviation system and the public should be potentially compromised,”Collins wrote the letter dated Dec. 23 andObtained by POLITICOThis week. She urged the DOT to do so. andFCC to find a “safe resolution” for the rollout which was scheduled to start Jan. 5th. A spokesperson for the FAA stated Wednesday that there is more work needed to find appropriate solutions so that 5G can be rolled out. andYou can safely coexist with aviation.”

The FCC andThe FAA has been involved in intensive deliberations about the matter, as White House demands a resolution. Wireless companies are pressing the administration — and White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese in particular — to reject calls to further postpone the rollout, saying 5G can safely coexist alongside aircraft navigation systems.

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AMERICA AND WORLD

MASSACRES IN MYANMAR — AP’s Sam McNeil, David Rising and Rishabh Jain are out with an investigation on Myanmar’s ugly military tactics: “The massacres and scorched-earth tactics — such as the razing of entire villages — represent the latest escalation in the military’s violence against both civilians and the growing opposition. Since the military seized power in February, it has cracked down ever more brutally, abducting young men and boys, killing health care workers and torturing prisoners. The massacres and burnings also signal a return to practices that the military has long used against ethnic minorities such as the Muslim Rohingya, thousands of whom were killed in 2017.”

CAUSE AND EFFECT — Sanctions imposed by the U.S. are forcing the Taliban in Iran and Afghanistan “to put longstanding ideological and political differences aside as they seek to fill the vacuum left behind by American troops,” WSJ’s Sune Engel Rasmussen writes. “Over the past decade, Iran maintained close ties with the Afghan republic’s government while also nurturing relations with the Taliban and backing their goal of evicting American troops from the region. Iran, unlike Western nations, didn’t close its diplomatic missions in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. No nation has yet recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate government, however.”

— And former President ofAfghanistan ASHRAF GHANI speaks to BBC about fleeing Afghanistan as Taliban take over in August. [the city of] Khost. Khost. andJalalabad was also so. I didn’t know where we would go. It became apparent that we were leaving only after we took off. [Afghanistan]. This was a sudden event.

JAN. 6 & ITS AFTERMATH

TRUMP VS. JAN. 6 COMMITTEE — WaPo’s Robert Barnes reports on another attempt by the former president to block the Jan. 6 committee from accessing White House records: “Lawyers for former President Donald Trump told the Supreme Court Wednesday that a Washington Post interview with the chairman of the House Jan. 6 committee shows the committee is trying to establish a criminal complaint against Trump, something the lawyers say is beyond the committee’s authority. … In the article, [Chairman BENNIE THOMPSON] said the committee is looking intently into Trump’s actions on Jan. 6 as it considers whether to recommend that the Justice Department open a criminal investigation into the former president.”

MEDIAWATCH

MAKING A LIST — WaPo’s Aaron Blake has a smart take on what he sees as the “the 4 most undersold political stories of 2021”:

  1. The GOP is creating the infrastructure necessary to defeat future elections
  2. The decline ofLegislative
  3. The rise ofAlternative medicine for the right
  4. Democrats’ potential buyer’s remorse on redistricting reform

According to Forbes, Anthony Fauci will retire at the highest federal retirement package ever, more than $350,000 annually, assuming that he does. Fauci has been alive for 55 years of federal service andMade $434,312 in 2020

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver “are finally, officially divorced, more than a decade after California’s former first lady filed her request to end their marriage,” per LAT.

The BBC interviewed Alan Dershowitz about the Ghislaine Maxwell guilty verdict — before realizing he was not an impartial analyst andAcknowledging that it is a mess.

TRANSITIONS — Katie Grant Drew is leaving House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office, where she’s worked for 16 years, most recently as comms director and senior adviser. Margaret Mulkerrin will be promoted from national press secretary into comms director.

Catherine Valentine is now a senior journalist atWashington Post is in charge ofThe PR around politics and national security andNewsletter strategy. She was most recently a producer. at CNN’s “New Day.”

ENGAGED — Mikayla Bouchard, managing editor ofCNN Politics beats Washington andU.S. Air Force Major Kohl Hensler engaged in December 23rd, Oakland County, Mich. where he surprised her by a horse-drawn carriageandAfter fresh snowfall, they took a -carriage ride. They met at Hinge in August 2019 Pic, via Cara Kerr Photography … Another pic

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Cassie Smedile Docksey, executive director of America Rising, andMax Docksey was the regional political director of the RNC and welcomed Elizabeth Agnes Docksey. She was born at12:22 a.m., 12/22/21 Pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Tammy Haddad … Reps. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) and Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.) … Lauren Claffey Tomlinson of Claffey Communications … Jack Deschauer … POLITICO’s Jennifer Scholtes and Philip Harman … Kevin Smith (5-0) … Sean Hannity (6-0) … Michael McLaughlin … former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo … Bill Thorne of the National Retail Federation … Heather Reid … Katie Hays … Justin Thomas Russell … Noelle Straub … Bob Cochran … Udai Rohatgi … Shannon Gilson of American Airlines … Nick Schmit … WaPo’s Courtney Beesch … Meredith Vieira … former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson … Michael Rekola … Jim Billimoria of America Express … Daniel Scarpinato … former Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) … Maria Elena Salinas … Kelly Curran … Hanna Hope … Hari Sevugan … Philippa Martinez-Berrier … Marcia Kramer of CBS New York … Reed Dickens … Leif Babin … Matt Latimer …

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The world offered to help in getting people vaccinated. The pandemic raged on and the world was eager to do its part. The most searched volunteer opportunity was vaccination volunteer. Google Year in Search 2021