Biden sits in silence and picks his teeth after being asked if he underestimated Putin


OPINION: This article contains commentary which may reflect the author's opinion


Biden’s silence to reporters’ questions on Tuesday was yet another embarrassing episode for his administration.

After he had finished making his prepared remarks from the White House set on Tuesday, Biden turned to his handlers, saying, “you gotta let me know when I’m supposed to, uh, stop here.”

There did not appear to be anything else the president could do but sit and watch as if amused by the spectacle as the press was being shooed out.

He was asked, at one point, by Fox News’s Peter Doocy, “Do you think you may have underestimated Putin? ”””

There was no response from Biden and he continued sitting, almost smirking and staring before picking his teeth as the cameras rolled.

When Biden came back to reality, instead of answering the important question, he threw a sarcastic jab at Doocy.

‘The thing I love about the press is they’re always on message,’ Biden said at an event on minerals on Tuesday with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy.

In addition, he joked with those participating virtually, including California governor Gavin Newsom, asking ‘Did you underestimate Putin?’

At the afternoon meeting in the South Court Auditorium, Biden was more jocular after having already announced the new sanctions against Russia.

‘Hi, everybody. How are you? Gavin, how are you, man?’ he asked when he entered.

During their conversation, Newsom told Biden he was betting ‘over/under that you were going to do this today.’

‘I’m impressed,’ he continued. ‘I am impressed. Thank you for not canceling on us.’

According to Biden, that was not likely to happen.

‘Oh, are you kidding me? We don’t have much going on, you know, other than Russia and Ukraine and – anyway,’ he responded. ‘Should we start? I guess I’m starting, huh? I guess I already started,’ he said jokingly.

In his remarks, Biden highlighted the progress made by both government and industry to boost private-sector production of minerals used to make electric vehicles and other renewable energy products but emphasized that new mines should benefit host communities and not harm the environment.

‘We can’t build a future that’s made in America if we ourselves are dependent on China for the materials that power the products of today and tomorrow,’ Biden explained.

The president made it clear, however, that he will not support new mining operations in the U.S. unless ‘the historical injustices that too many mining operations have left behind’ can be avoided.

‘Environmental protections are paramount,’ stated Biden. ‘We have to ensure that these resources actually benefit folks in the communities where they live, not just shareholders.’

In recent years, Washington has grown increasingly concerned that low U.S. production of minerals vital to the development of future technologies may leave it dependent on nations like China and others that have invested heavily in mining.

As a result, Biden and his predecessors have sought to boost the United States’ production of lithium, rare earths and other strategic minerals while balancing opposition from environmentalists and indigenous groups.

A White House committee will recommend changes to mining laws dating back to 1872, which have guided hard rock mining across much of the United States since the 19th century, to address environmental concerns.

A grant of $35 million was also announced by Biden from the Defense Department to MP Materials Inc. for the purpose of processing rare earths, which are used to produce magnets for consumer goods and weapons.

MP already has received roughly $10 million from the Pentagon for controlling the only rare earths mine in the United States but relies on China to process the material.

In 2024, the company will have invested $700 million from its own funds and created more than 350 jobs.

The company has stated that it plans to start processing rare earths in California by the end of this year.

MP’s executive chairman, Jim Litinsky, told Biden the investments will enable MP to manufacture enough rare earth products to build half a million electric vehicles by 2025.

At the event, Berkshire Hathaway Energy Renewables also announced that it will begin construction this spring on a California facility that will test sustainable ways to produce lithium from geothermal brines at locations such as California’s Salton Sea.

According to last week’s report by Reuters, Biden also announced that the Pentagon plans to increase its stockpile of strategic minerals.

On Tuesday, he provided the clearest indication to date about the criteria officials use when deciding whether or not to support a U.S. mining project.

‘It’s my hope and my expectation that those communities … get the benefit of being able to be employed and being able to generate a living from what’s going to be happening and are protected environmentally,’ Biden declared.

Antofagasta Plc was planning to build a copper mine in Minnesota when the Biden administration halted it.

Rio Tinto Ltd has also taken steps to slow down the development of a copper mine in Arizona and a lithium mine in Nevada.

A pilot project with a $140 million investment to recover rare earths from coal ash was also announced at the event. Funding for the project was provided by the recently passed infrastructure law.

Another deal between Talon Metals Corp. and the United Steelworkers to train workers in northern Minnesota near the Tamarack nickel project has also been touted by the White House.

Tesla Inc. signed an agreement with Talon last month for nickel supply.

The White House reported that Talon has also committed to remaining neutral in union organizing. Throughout much of his presidency, Biden has been an active supporter of organized labor.

When Biden’s comments focused on Doocy, the press was asked to leave so that the meeting could continue without reporters.

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