‘We won’t be intimidated by Putin’s rhetoric,’ says White House after Biden’s ‘Armageddon’ warning – as it happened

The Guardian
The Guardian

9.00pm BST

Closing summary

Joe Biden has issued a dire warning about Vladimir Putin ’s willingness to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, and warned that if such weapons are deployed, “armageddon” would follow. The White House said the president’s comments weren’t based on any new intelligence or signs that such an attack might happen soon, but rather an indication of how seriously the administration takes such threats .

Here’s what else happened today:

  • September was another decent month of job growth, though there were signs of weakness in the US labor market, according to new government data .

  • The White House press secretary declined to comment on reports that prosecutors believe they have enough evidence to charge the president’s son Hunter Biden with crimes related to lying on a firearm purchase background check and not reporting all his income.

  • Biden’s student debt relief plan survived another court challenge .

  • Herschel Walker , the Republican Senate candidate in Georgia, fired a top staffer amid revelations Walker paid for an abortion despite his hardline stance against the procedure.

8.48pm BST

President Joe Biden has issued a statement of congratulations to the winners of this year’s Nobel Peace prize, which went to rights activists in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

The decision was seen as a repudiation of Russian president Vladimir Putin . Here’s what Biden’s had to say:

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners remind us that, even in dark days of war, in the face of intimidation and oppression, the common human desire for rights and dignity cannot be extinguished. On behalf of the American people, I congratulate Ales Bialiatski of Belarus, Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties, and the Russian organization Memorial on this deserved honor.
For years, they have tirelessly fought for human rights and fundamental freedoms—including the right to speak freely and criticize openly. They have pursued their mission with passion and persistence. Throughout its history, Memorial has revealed the truth about the abuse of Soviet and Russian citizens, despite intense intimidation. Ales Bialiatski has never backed down from demanding the democratic freedoms the Belarusian people deserve, even while imprisoned. And, in the midst of Russia’s brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine, the Center for Civil Liberties is documenting in real time the war crimes and atrocities Russia is inflicting on the Ukrainian people. Above all, the brave souls who do this work have pursued the truth and documented for the world the political repression of their fellow citizens—speaking out, standing up, and staying the course while being threatened by those who seek their silence. In doing so, they have made our world stronger. Ales Bialiatski, the Center for Civil Liberties, and Memorial deserve to be recognized for the work they have done, the example they have set, and the hope they inspire for a better future through their unwavering dedication to fundamental freedoms.

Related: Nobel peace prize given to human rights activists in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine

8.30pm BST

In other Senate news, Marco Rubio, a Republican representing Florida who is up for re-election this year, has found himself in a feud with a drag queen, Coral Murphy Marcos reports:

A drag queen called the Florida senator Marco Rubio a bigot, after the Republican included her in a campaign ad in which he attacked “the radical left”.

Lil Miss Hot Mess, who performs in Los Angeles, responded to Rubio in a video after he used footage of her reading to children during Drag Queen Story Hour , a children’s program that started in 2015.

“I have one question for Marco Rubio,” Lil Miss Hot Mess said in the video released by Glaad, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group.

“Why are you so obsessed with me and Drag Story Hour? We’re simply out here reading books to children, encouraging them to use their imagination to envision a more just and fabulous world.

Related: Drag queen featured in Marco Rubio campaign ad calls him a bigot

8.08pm BST

Republican Georgia senate candidate fires top staffer amid abortion uproar

Herschel Walker , the Republican senate candidate in Georgia, has fired his campaign’s political director, according to CNN .

The decision came after The Daily Beast reported Walker, who backs banning abortion nationwide without exceptions, paid for the abortion of a woman who he later had another child with. The Georgia senate race in which Walker is trying to unseat Democrat Raphael Warnock is seen as crucial to controlling Congress’s upper chamber, but many high-profile Republicans continue to support Walker, despite the revelations.

Here’s more from CNN:

The departure of Taylor Crowe, who previously held the same role on ex-GOP Sen. David Perdue’s failed bid for Georgia governor this year, comes just weeks before Election Day in the crucial Senate contest against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock. With an evenly split Senate, Republicans are hoping to flip the Georgia seat as they look to take control of the chamber.

Two people familiar with the matter said Crowe was fired after suspected leaking to members of the media. It is unclear if there were any other factors at play.

Walker campaign manager Scott Paradise declined to comment when reached by CNN on Friday. Crowe himself did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

CNN has not been able to independently verify the allegation against Walker, who has repeatedly denied that he ever paid for an abortion.

Related: Republicans throw support behind Herschel Walker after abortion denial

7.49pm BST

The White House has hit out at a bill proposed by Republican senators to roll back provisions of an August spending measure that are projected to reduce both the US budget deficit and prescription drug prices for people who receive health insurance through the government.

The ability for the Medicare and Medicaid programs to negotiate drug prices was a change long sought by Democrats, and included in the Inflation Reduction Act spending bill Joe Biden signed in August. Yesterday, Republican senators James Lankford and Mike Lee introduced a bill to repeal that ability, arguing it “creates even more barriers to effectively bringing down the cost of prescriptions, particularly for senior adults on Medicare.”

Here’s what White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre had to say about that:

Today, MAGA Congressional Republicans introduced legislation that puts special interests before working families. Their new bill is a giveaway to big pharma at the expense of seniors by ending Medicare’s new ability to negotiate lower drug prices. Their vision for the country is extreme and out of touch with working families across the country.

7.29pm BST

What could a Russian tactical strike look like and how would the US respond?

Julian Borger , our world affairs editor, writes from Washington…

The past week has seen a rapid escalation in nuclear rhetoric, beginning with Vladimir Putin’s threat to use “all forces and means” to defend newly seized territory in Ukraine and ending with Joe Biden’s warning of “Armageddon” if Russia crosses the nuclear Rubicon.

However, the realities underlying the menacing vocabulary are a far greyer area than the bluster suggests. It is far from certain that Putin would be prepared to be the first leader to use nuclear weapons in wartime since 1945, over his territorial ambitions in Ukraine. If his primary goal is to stay in power, that could be exactly the wrong way of going about it.

Even if he did issue the launch order, he has no guarantee it would be carried out. Nor can he be absolutely sure that the weapons and their delivery systems would work.

On the US side, despite Joe Biden’s apocalyptic language at a private fundraiser on Thursday night, it is not at all inevitable that Washington would respond to Putin’s nuclear use with nuclear retaliation. Past wargaming suggests there would be vigorous debate within the administration to say the least.

Full story:

Related: Are Putin’s nuclear threats really likely to lead to Armageddon?

7.13pm BST

NBC News reports that the Republican Nebraska senator Ben Sasse’s imminent departure from Congress to be president of the University of the Florida, first reported on Thursday, is the result of high-level Republican rivalries.
Ben Sasse. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

Quoting “a top Republican insider”, NBC says the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis , was behind the move, which was meant as one in the eye for Donald Trump .

Marc Caputo , an NBC reporter, writes : “In May, Trump said he regretted supporting Ben Sasse. Now, DeSantis’s man at UF has engineered Sasse’s hiring. ‘Everyone knows what this is about: Ron and Don,’ a top Republican insider tells me, echoing others.”

As the only Republican who polls even close to Trump, DeSantis is widely thought to be planning a presidential run of his own.

There could be another angle to Sasse’s move.

Pete Ricketts , the Republican Nebraska governor, will appoint a replacement for Sasse, should he join UF as expected and resign before January, when a new governor will be in place.

On Friday, in messages viewed by the Guardian , a Trump insider said the Sasse move was “about Ricketts money to DeSantis. This is what Pete wanted so he can appoint himself to the Senate.”

A spokesperson for Ricketts did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Full story:

Related: Ben Sasse, Republican who voted to convict Trump, to depart Congress

6.49pm BST

In Hagerstown, Maryland, Joe Biden has delivered a long attack on Republican policies on taxation, spending, healthcare, drugs prices and benefits including social security and Medicare. The midterm elections are just a month away, after all.

He singles out Paul Gosar , a far-right Arizona Republican who has slammed Biden’s agenda as “socialist” but, Biden says, has asked for federal spending in his district. Biden asks, who’s the socialist there?

“I was surprised to see so many socialists in the Republican caucus,” he adds.

Biden says: “When it comes to the next Congress, it’s not a referendum. It’s a choice, a choice between two very different ways of looking at the economy.”

He repeatedly decries “trickle-down economics”, the notion that tax cuts for the rich will benefit everyone else, so central to the current British government under Liz Truss, of course.
Joe Biden speaks in Hagerstown, Maryland. Photograph: Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

Biden also decries Republican election denial, among those who claim he stole the 2020 election from Donald Trump , but says he has “never been more optimistic about America’s prospects”.

Raising his voice, he insists there is “nothing, nothing we’ve ever set our mind to that we have not been able to do”.

Music, applause … and scene.

6.39pm BST

Biden speaks on jobs, the economy and more

In Hagerstown, Maryland, Joe Biden has hailed this morning’s jobs numbers.

“We’re proving that our best days are ahead of us, not behind us. Just look at today’s jobs report. Our economy created 263,000 jobs last month – that’s 10 million jobs since I’ve come into office. That’s the fastest job growth at any point of any president in American history. Historic progress.

“The unemployment rate remains at historic lows: 3.5% unemployment. That includes the lowest unemployment among Hispanic Americans ever in the history of this country, the second-lowest employment among Black teenagers.”

The president does adds a nod to expectations of a slowdown in jobs numbers soon: “Our jobs recovery will cool while still powering our recovery.”

Our business editor, Dominic Rushe , has more on such concerns:

According to career services firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas , it was the fifth month this year that job cuts were higher than the corresponding month in 2021 . Challenger also reported a sharp slowdown in hiring intentions, with employers announcing in September that they planned to take on 380,014 workers, the lowest September total since 2011.

“Some cracks are beginning to appear in the labor market. Hiring is slowing and downsizing events are beginning to occur,” senior vice-president Andrew Challenger said in a statement.

“The cooling housing market and Fed’s rate hikes are leading to job cuts among mortgage staff at banks and lenders. The recession concerns are leading to increased uncertainty, and companies across sectors are beginning to reassess staffing needs.”

Related: US employers added 263,000 new jobs in September as ‘cracks’ appear in labor market

Updated at 7.06pm BST

6.29pm BST

Joe Biden is now speaking in Hagerstown, Maryland, where he is visiting Volvo Group Powertrain Operations to talk about unions, jobs and other pressing pre-midterms priorities. Of course, a lot of minds are on what he said yesterday in New York, about Russia, the threat of nuclear war and the possibility of “Armageddon” .

“I’m a union guy,” he says in Hagerstown, also branding himself the most “pro-union president American history”, dedicated to the “single best workers in the world”.

We’ll keep listening, of course.

6.19pm BST

The day so far

Joe Biden has issued a dire warning about Vladimir Putin ’s willingness to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, and warned that if such weapons are deployed, “armageddon” would follow. The White House said the president’s comments weren’t based on any new intelligence or signs that such an attack might happen soon, but rather an indication of how seriously the administration takes such threats .

Here’s what else is going on today:

  • September was another decent month of job growth, though there were signs of weakness in the US labor market, according to new government data .

  • The White House press secretary declined to comment on reports that prosecutors believe they have enough evidence to charge the president’s son Hunter Biden with crimes related to lying on a firearm purchase background check and not reporting all his income.

  • Biden’s student debt relief plan survived another court challenge .

6.01pm BST

The White House press secretary had less to say about the reports published yesterday and today revealing that federal investigators believe they have enough evidence to bring charges against Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.

“This is an ongoing investigation being handled independently by the department of justice so I would refer you to the department of justice,” Karine Jean-Pierre replied when asked about the reports.

Republicans have long tried to use the allegations of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden to paint the president as corrupt. During his administration, Donald Trump pressured Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate both Joe and Hunter Biden’s business dealings in the country to hurt the former’s presidential prospects, leading Democrats to impeach Trump in 2020.

Hunter Biden has been under investigation since 2018, and The Washington Post along with CNN and The Wall Street Journal say that prosectors believe they have the evidence to charge Hunter Biden with crimes related to lying on a background check for purchasing a firearm, and for not reporting all of his foreign income. A Trump-appointed US attorney in Delaware will ultimately make a decision on whether or not to bring a case against the president’s son.

5.41pm BST

Biden’s remarks last night weren’t based on any new intelligence, but rather a reinforcement of what Washington officials have been saying publicly in response to Putin’s threats using nuclear weapons, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

“The president… has been a very consistent. He was reinforcing what we have been saying, which is how seriously… we take these threats about nuclear weapons as we have done when the Russians have made these threats throughout the conflict,” Jean-Pierre said aboard Air Force One. “So the kind of irresponsible rhetoric we have seen is no way for the leader of a nuclear-armed state to speak, and that’s what the President was making very clear.”

As Biden did in remarks to Democratic donors last night, Jean-Pierre also brought up the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the Soviet Union and the United States came perilously close to nuclear conflict in 1962. “If the Cuban missile crisis has taught us anything, it is the value of reducing nuclear risk and not brandishing it,” she said.

5.23pm BST

'We won't be intimidated by Putin's rhetoric': White House

Russia’s use of a nuclear weapon in Ukraine would cause “unintended consequences” for Moscow, the White House press secretary said, while noting there’s no evidence yet that president Vladimir Putin intends to use his atomic arsenal.

“Russia’s talk of using nuclear weapons is irresponsible, and there’s no way to use to use them without unintended consequences. It cannot happen… We won’t be intimidated by Putin’s rhetoric,” Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One during president Joe Biden ’s short flight to Hagerstown, Maryland, where he is to speak about the economy.

She downplayed the possibility that the first use of a nuclear weapon in war since 1945 was imminent.

“We have not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture, nor do we have indications they are preparing to use them, but Putin can de-escalate this at any time and there is no reason to escalate.”

She did not comment directly on Biden’s prediction last night that Russia’s use of a nuclear weapon would cause “Armageddon”.

Updated at 6.22pm BST

5.03pm BST

Biden isn’t the only leader whose comments about Russia are grabbing headlines today.

Here’s Finland’s prime minister Sanna Marin wasting no words on how the war in Ukraine should end:

4.47pm BST

As he set off from the White House on yet another lengthy day of travel, Joe Biden gave the press no opportunity to ask about his “armageddon” comment.

That’s from The Guardian’s David Smith , who’s covering the president’s departure. Biden is en route now to Hagerstown, Maryland, where he’ll speak about the economy, before flying to Philadelphia and finally Wilmington, Delaware, where he is to spend the weekend.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will take questions from reporters on Air Force One during the flight to Hagerstown, so we may find out more about the White House’s view of Russia’s intentions.

4.30pm BST

Biden 'armageddon' remark not driven by new intelligence: White House

US president Joe Biden ’s remark last night that Russian president Vladimir Putin was serious about using nuclear weapons in Ukraine and that doing so would risk “armageddon” was not based on any new intelligence, Semafor reports.

The president’s dire assessment of the risk of nuclear war – which he said was at its highest level since the Cuban Missile Crisis 60 years ago - was instead a reflection of Washington’s seriousness when it comes to Putin’s increasingly strident rhetoric, a White House official said:

4.14pm BST

Democrats are sounding the alarm about their fundraising numbers ahead of the 8 November midterms, The Washington Post reports.

While candidates have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in their bid to retain their majority in the House of Representatives, Republicans are outspending them in areas where Democrats are vulnerable, and have shown more flexibility in getting dollars to pay for television advertisements and other campaign tactics in races that need them most.

Here’s more from the Post :

Top Democratic strategists have concluded that they lack the funds needed to fully contest all of their potentially winnable House races this cycle, people familiar with the situation said, forcing tough decisions about where to spend on television ads as Republican outside groups flood the airwaves.

The relative shortfall in outside spending is likely to leave some Democratic incumbents in contested races at sharp advertising disadvantages, while restricting the party’s ability to compete in open seats or to unseat Republican incumbents, these people said.

“There are places that I don’t know if we are going to be able to get to,” said Tim Persico, the executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “It’s just money. They have billionaires and corporations stepping up with big checks and we just don’t have the same type of support. We are just getting outspent everywhere, so it is just a question of how much can we withstand.”

Democrats pointed to a TV ad spending advantage by Republican outside groups, which have the flexibility to move money around the House landscape strategically in the final weeks. That edge has become more alarming as a recent shift in the national mood has put more seats in contention for Democrats, who find themselves hamstrung by the Republican advantage in donors on the GOP side.

Another House Democratic strategist said the inability to fully fund key races could prove to be the difference between winning and losing control of Congress, or between keeping Republicans to a five-seat majority and a 15-seat majority. “I don’t think it is hyperbole to say at this point that money is going to make the difference,” said this person, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk more freely about strategy.

Democrats are not favored by nonpartisan analysts to hold the House this cycle, because of the narrow majority they now enjoy and the historical head winds that the president’s party typically faces in his first midterm elections. But some Democrats feel their chances of winning have risen in recent months, given a summer spike in Democratic enthusiasm after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the ruling establishing a constitutional right to abortion and a recent uptick in President Biden’s approval rating.

3.54pm BST

Either explicitly or implicitly, abortion will be on the ballots many Americans receive in the 8 November midterms. Will advocates of the procedure see a repeat of the success they had in Kansas, where they successfully kept abortion legal in a deeply red state? Poppy Noor digs into the issue:

When Kansans voted overwhelmingly to protect abortion this summer, the 59-41 referendum margin in the deep-red state sent shockwaves through the country, inspiring pro-choice advocates and sending anti-abortion campaigners scrambling for an unexpected political dogfight as five similar ballot initiatives approach in November.

The abortion referendums – in Kentucky, Montana, California , Vermont and Michigan – have seen both sides organize extensive campaigns.

In Kentucky and Montana, red like Kansas , it was Republicans and anti-abortion advocates who brought the initiatives with the aim of removing abortion protections from state constitutions.

Related: More abortion votes across US – can Kansas inspire another pro-choice win?

3.33pm BST

As he often does with a healthy jobs report, Biden cheered the latest data as a sign that the economy is performing well under his watch:

If you read between the lines, the “stable, steady growth” Biden is referring to is more aspiration than reality at the moment. Inflation remains high in the United States, though is believed to be poised to decline in the months ahead. Meanwhile, government data showed negative growth in the previous two quarters, raising fears of a recession. But that dynamic may also reverse in the final quarters of the year – creating the type of economic conditions Biden hopes revive his sagging popularity among American voters.

3.12pm BST

Biden’s plan to cancel some student debt has survived in court – again.

The Associated Press reports that a federal judge in Wisconsin has dismissed a lawsuit from a taxpayer group trying to stop the measure that would cancel as much as $20,000 in student loans for millions of borrowers.

Here’s more from the AP:

The Brown County Taxpayers Association argued that Biden’s order unlawfully circumvented Congress’ power over spending. They also argued the plan was discriminatory by seeking to give particular help to borrowers of color.

U.S. District Judge William Griesbach, an appointee of President George W. Bush, tossed the case Thursday, writing that the group does not have standing to challenge the plan simply because they are taxpayers.

Biden enacted the debt relief plan under the HEROES Act, which was passed after the Sept. 11 attacks sparked an American-led military campaign aimed at terrorism. The act gave the executive branch authority to forgive student loan debt in association with military operations or national emergencies.

The president cited COVID-19 as reason to invoke the act. The lawsuit, filed by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty on behalf of the taxpayers group, had argued it was an overextension of executive power that improperly sidestepped Congress.

A libertarian group last month sued over the plan in Indiana, but the AP reports a judge declined to block the White House proposal and told the plaintiffs to resubmit their argument.

Related: Biden unveils plan to cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for millions

2.50pm BST

Government data released this morning confirmed that the US labor market remains strong – but perhaps not that strong. Dominic Rushe dove into the numbers and tells us what he found:

US employers added 263,000 new jobs in September as the unemployment rate dipped to 3.5%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Friday.

The jobs market has shown signs of slowing recently after regaining all the jobs that were lost during the pandemic. September’s gain was down from the 315,000 jobs added in August and far lower than the 420,000 average monthly gain thus far in 2022. But growth has remained robust despite rising interest rates and growing fears of a recession.

How long the job market can maintain its current trajectory is unknown. The Federal Reserve blames the current cost of living crisis in part on a tight labor market and rising wages and has signaled it would like to see hiring fall, and unemployment rise, as it seeks to tamp down inflation.

Related: US employers added 263,000 new jobs in September as ‘cracks’ appear in labor market

2.35pm BST

Even after the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago resort in August, The New York Times reports that investigators are skeptical that Donald Trump has turned over all the government documents in his possession. Here’s the latest on the saga from The Guardian’s Martin Pengelly :

The US Department of Justice has told lawyers for Donald Trump it thinks he has not handed back all the documents he took from the White House, the New York Times reported .

The paper said Jay Bratt, the DoJ head of counterintelligence operations, communicated with lawyers for Trump “in recent weeks”.

The news, the Times said, is “the most concrete indication yet that investigators remain skeptical that Mr Trump has been fully cooperative in their efforts to recover documents … supposed to have [been] turned over to the National Archives at the end of his term”.

Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor, said the news “looks like a major step toward an indictment of Trump by DoJ for obstruction of justice”.

Related: US justice department says Trump didn’t turn over all documents – report

2.18pm BST

What’s shocking about Biden’s remark isn’t that Vladimir Putin is considering using nuclear weapons.

The Russian president has personally threatened to do so as his military faces setbacks in its bloody invasion of Ukraine. But when the US president – who has access to information from America’s spy agencies that few others do – warns that Putin is indeed serious, and compares the current moment to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, then it’s something else. The question is: what?

One possibility is that the utterance was part of the public rhetoric campaign the White House has been waging to warn it against using a nuclear weapon. Last month, national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned doing so would bring “catastrophic consequences” .

Speaking at a Democratic fundraiser last night, Biden acknowledged a level of uncertainty about Russia’s goals, and how far Putin was willing to go to achieve them. “We are trying to figure out what is Putin’s off-ramp? Where does he find a way out? Where does he find himself where he does not only lose face but significant power?” Biden said.

Related: Biden warns world would face ‘Armageddon’ if Putin uses a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine

2.00pm BST

Shock as Biden suggests Putin's nuclear threats could mean 'Armageddon'

Good morning, US politics blog readers. The job of an American president often involves reassuring or comforting the nation during uncertain times. Joe Biden instead gave Americans a blunt assessment of reality last night, when he suggested that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin , was not kidding with his threats to to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, and warned the world was the closest it has been to “Armageddon” in six decades. Chilling stuff.

Here’s what else is going on today:

  • The president is back on the road with a trip that will take him to Hagerstown, Maryland, Philadelphia and finally Wilmington, Delaware, for the weekend.

  • Wisconsin Republican senator Ron Johnson debates his Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes at 8pm.

  • New data shows the US labor market remained strong in September, adding 263,000 positions and sending the unemployment rate down to 3.5%.

Comments / 57

Pres Jordan

The Lord God says Be not Afraid of Evil Doer He will soon be Cut Down. The Lord God is a God of Good not the God of Evil. Because the Lord God cannot be Tempted with Evil.

Not you again

He is going to talk about the Economy? His only comment should be "I screwed up miserbably!"

Shawn Hurst

Biden ain't helping either. Let's give Ukraine 1.9 Billion so they can battle Russia and "Post " in on Cover of TIME Magazine.


Comments / 0