Biden says GOP making ‘big mistake’ on Ukraine aid, willing to meet with Johnson

Written by on February 19, 2024

President Biden. CREDIT: Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(NEW YORK) — President Joe Biden, in the wake of the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, said congressional Republicans are “making a big mistake” by not passing additional aid to Ukraine.

Biden, returning to the White House on Monday, was asked by a reporter if he’d go so far as to say House Republicans had Navalny’s “blood on their hands” amid their opposition to funding for the war-torn nation as Russia’s invasion enters its third year.

“No, I wouldn’t use that term,” the president responded. “They’re making a big mistake not responding.”

Biden continued, “Look, the way they’re walking away from the threat of Russia, the way they’re walking away from NATO, the way they’re walking away from leaving our obligations, it’s just shocking. I mean, it’s been a while. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Navalny’s death was reported by Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service on Feb. 16. No information has been shared about the cause of death. According to Navanly’s team, his family has been denied access to his body.

Biden has blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for Navalny’s death.

Biden said Monday he is considering additional sanctions on Russia over Navalny’s death, though he didn’t elaborate on when those sanctions could be implemented or what they would target. Officials have told ABC they’re weighing additional sanctions against human rights violators connected to Navalny’s imprisonment.

Asked if Navalny’s death could spark movement from Republicans on Ukraine aid, Biden said: “I hope so, but I’m not sure anything’s gonna change.”

In a shift from past statements from the White House, Biden said he would be willing to meet with House Speaker Mike Johnson on the issue.

“I’d be happy to meet with him if he has anything to say,” Biden said.

Johnson has said he’s been asking for a sit-down with President Biden for weeks to discuss aid to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and border security, but those requests were denied.

“What is there to negotiate really, truly?” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Mary Bruce last week.

Jean-Pierre cited Johnson’s shifting positions on how to deal with the border and foreign aid. House Republicans have stalled two bills that would deal with foreign aid: a bipartisan Senate compromise tying immigration changes to the aid and a stand-alone measure passed by the Senate providing $95 billion for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

In the wake of Navalny’s death, Johnson was critical of Putin but didn’t commit to providing additional aid to Ukraine. The House is currently in recess until the end of the month.

“As Congress debates the best path forward to support Ukraine, the United States, and our partners, must be using every means available to cut off Putin’s ability to fund his unprovoked war in Ukraine and aggression against the Baltic states,” Johnson said in a statement.


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