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Biden addresses Putin’s nuclear threats, possible rematch against Trump in new CNN interview

Biden also responded to a question about possible criminal charges against his son Hunter Biden

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President Joe Biden talks to reporters before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, in Washington. More U.S. adults are now feeling financially vulnerable amid high inflation. That’s a political risk for Biden and his fellow Democrats one month before the midterm elections.

Evan Vucci, Associated Press

In a wide-ranging interview with Jake Tapper that aired Tuesday night on CNN, President Joe Biden said he doesn’t think Russian President Vladimir Putin will use tactical nuclear weapons in the war against Ukraine, but called Putin’s threats “irresponsible.” 

“I think it’s irresponsible for him to talk about it, the idea that a world leader of one of the largest nuclear powers in the world says he may use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine,” Biden said. 

Biden declined to call Putin irrational, insisting instead that he was a “rational actor” who was behaving in an irrational way. As Ukrainian forces have regained territory in the parts of Ukraine that Putin has said Russia would annex, Putin has escalated his threats against the West and Ukraine, including by insinuating he would be willing to use nuclear weapons in the conflict. 

Tapper pressed Biden on how the U.S. or NATO would respond if Putin crossed the nuclear “red line,” but Biden said he was “not going to get into that.” He did say the Pentagon was gaming out ways the U.S. might respond to different scenarios. 

On the new partnership between Russia and Saudi Arabia, and their announcement that OPEC+ would cut oil production, Biden said he would reevaluate the U.S.’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and that Saudi Arabia would face “consequences,” but declined to give details on what those would be. Gas prices will likely rise in the U.S. because of the OPEC+ decision, a move Biden has been trying to forestall. 

Tapper brought up Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia, where he spoke to leaders there about keeping oil flowing, and Biden’s fist-bump with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for which he was roundly criticized

“Let’s get straight why I went,” Biden told Tapper. “I didn’t go about oil, I went about making sure that we made sure that we weren’t going to walk away from the Middle East.” 

Biden also responded to Tapper’s questions about his plans for 2024. He reiterated again that he would not make a decision on whether or not he’ll run until after the November midterm elections. 

Tapper wished Biden an early happy birthday — he’’ll turn 80 on Nov. 20 — and reminded him he’s the oldest president in history. 

“What’s your message to Democrats who like you, who like what you’ve done, but who are concerned about your age and the demands of the job?” Tapper asked

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Jake Tapper speaks before the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN on July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. Tapper recently interviewed President Joe Biden.

Paul Sancya, Associated Press

Biden responded by bringing up the bills he’s helped pass in recent months, including a bill that raises taxes on corporations and cuts prescription drug costs, and a bipartisan infrastructure bill.  

Tapper also asked Biden if he thought he was the only Democrat who could beat Trump. 

“I believe I can beat Donald Trump again,” Biden responded. 

In response to a question about Biden’s son Hunter, who could face criminal charges for a gun purchase and for possible tax violations, Biden said he was “proud” of his son, who has been fighting a drug addiction. Tapper did not ask the president about Hunter Biden’s ties to businesses overseas, which is also part of the U.S. Attorney in Delaware’s investigation.