After publicly appearing to call for the ouster of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, US President Joe Biden read from a pre-prepared ‘cheat sheet,’ on Monday, in an attempt to assure reporters that he wasn’t actually suggesting regime change in Moscow.
However, Biden, whose cognitive health Republicans say is declining, ended up doubling down on his original remarks.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, the president said that his declaration in Poland last week that Putin “cannot remain in power” was not a call for regime change in Moscow.
“I’m not walking anything back,” Biden said. “I want to make it clear: I was not then, nor am I now, articulating a policy change. I was expressing moral outrage that I feel, and I make no apologies for it.”
Photos from the press conference show Biden carrying a small card, entitled “Tough Putin Q&A Talking Points,” in which the president was instructed to answer such a question as follows:
“I was expressing the moral outrage I felt toward the actions of this man. I was not articulating a change in policy.”
Despite sticking to what he was instructed to say, Biden wandered off-script later in the briefing. “It’s more an aspiration than anything. He shouldn’t be in power. There’s no…I mean, people like this shouldn’t be ruling countries, but they do,” he said, before telling another reporter that he doesn’t believe Russia would interpret such a statement as a declaration of policy.
“Nobody believes… I was talking about taking down Putin. Nobody believes that,” Biden said.