President Biden holds news conference to mark one year in office

By Maureen Chowdhury, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Fernando Alfonso III and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 0522 GMT (1322 HKT) January 20, 2022
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5:56 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

Ukraine shocked at Biden "green light to Putin" incursion 

From CNN’s Matthew Chance

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A Ukrainian official told CNN’s Matthew Chance he is “shocked that the US President Biden would distinguish between incursion and invasion” and suggest that a minor incursion would not trigger sanctions but an invasion would. 

“This gives the green light to Putin to enter Ukraine at his pleasure,” the official added.

During his news conference marking one year in office, Biden suggested a "minor incursion" by Russia would elicit a lesser response than a full-scale invasion of the country.

The Ukrainian official added he’d never heard any nuance like this from the US administration before. 

“Kyiv is stunned,” he added, referring to the Ukrainian government.

5:50 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

Biden outlines what he hopes to do differently in 2022, including soliciting more outside advice 

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Biden says he wants to pierce the White House bubble during his second year in office.

He told CNN during the news conference that after containing a series of crises, he wants to solicit more outside advice and speak to more people outside the building.

"I'm satisfied with the team," Biden said, but went on to list three things he hopes to do differently in 2022.

"Number one, out of this place more often," he said. "I'm going to go out and talk to the public. I'm going to do public fora. I'm going to interface with them. I'm going to make the case of what we've already done, why it's important and what we'll do, what will happen if they support what else I want to do."

Biden has traveled less often than his predecessors due to being restrained by the pandemic. He has visited comparatively fewer states and has only been outside the US twice.

Biden said his second change would be consulting a wider range of advice from people outside the White House.

"I am bringing in more and more now that I have time," he said, noting he works as much as 14 hours a day. "Now that certain big chunks have been put in place and we know the direction, I'm also going to be out there seeking the more advice of experts outside from academia to editorial writers to think tanks, and I'm bringing them in, just like I did early on bringing in presidential historians to get their perspective on what we should be doing. Seeking more input. More information. More constructive criticism about what I should and shouldn't be doing."

Biden said his third change would be engaging more with Democrats during the midterm elections.

"I'm going to be deeply involved in these off-year elections," he said. "We're going to be raising a lot of money. We're going to be out there making sure that we're helping all those candidates and scores of them already asked me to come in and campaign with them to go out and make the case in plain simple language as to what it is we have done, what we want to do and why we think it's important."


5:48 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

As Biden speaks, Sen. Joe Manchin slams Democrats' push to gut filibuster

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

As President Biden held a news conference to tout his administration's achievements during his first year in office, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin criticized his party over their push to end the filibuster in order to advance legislation on voting rights.

In remarks on the Senate floor, Manchin said he was speaking out against "a great misleading of the American people."

"Allowing one party to exert complete control in the Senate with only a simple majority will only pour fuel on the fire of political whiplash and dysfunction that is tearing this nation apart," Manchin said. "You don't have to look very far to see how we're tearing ourselves apart. Every part of this country, people are divided now." 

The West Virginia Democrat has repeatedly said he will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster, which sets a 60-vote threshold to pass most legislation, creating an obstacle for his party as Senate Democrats push for a rules change.

At the same time, Biden was asked about voting rights, specifically about Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney's recent remarks, attacking the White House for keeping Republicans out of discussions over election reform.

"The fact is that I do think that Mitt is a serious guy," Biden said. "I think we can get things done. I predict that we'll get something done on the electoral reform side of this."

He continued, "But rather judge what we'll get done and not get done, all I can say is I'll continue to make the case why it's so important to not turn electoral process over to political persons set up to change the outcome of elections."

Some background: The Senate is on track to hold a vote Wednesday evening to attempt to break a GOP filibuster on voting legislation that combines key provisions of two bills: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Debate for the legislative package is under way Wednesday afternoon, and a vote is expected around 6:30 p.m. ET.

5:34 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

Biden defends Afghanistan withdrawal: There is no way to get out after 20 years easily

President Biden defended the US withdrawal from Afghanistan nearly five months later.

"Raise your hand if you think anyone was going to be able to unify Afghanistan under one single government? It's been the graveyard of empires for a solid reason: It is not susceptible to unity," Biden said during today's news conference.

Citing the weekly spending of nearly one billion dollars to keep American forces in the state, Biden noted what he called no possibility at a peaceful resolution.

"The question was, do I continue to spend that much money per week in the state of Afghanistan knowing that the idea that being able to succeed, other than sending more body bags back home, is highly, highly unusual," he said.

"There is no way to get out of Afghanistan after 20 years easily. Not possible, no matter when you did it. And I make no apologies for what I did," the President said.

Biden did, however, express empathy for the lives lost amid the withdrawal.

"I have a great concern for the women and men who were blown up on the line at the airport by a terrorist attack against them," he said.

Placing blame on previous administrations, Biden continued to defend the late August operation.

"Had we not gotten out, the acknowledgment is we'd be putting a lot more forces in ... do I feel badly [about] what's happening as a consequence of the incompetence of the Taliban? Yes, I do," Biden said, adding that there are "a whole range of things around the world, that we can't solve every problem. And so I don't view that as a competence issue."

5:34 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

Biden laments Trump’s ability to "intimidate an entire" political party

From CNN's Betsy Klein

(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden lamented his predecessor’s hold on the Republican Party as his sweeping domestic agenda and election reform priorities remain stalled in Congress with no path forward. 

Without naming former President Trump, Biden railed against Trump’s threats to support primary opponents for politicians who take positions Trump views as disloyal.

“You ever think one man out of office could intimidate an entire party where they’re unwilling to take any vote contrary to what he thinks he should be taken for fear of being defeated in the primary?” Biden asked rhetorically during today's news conference.

Biden said that “five Republican senators” have expressed to him that they would be in support of legislation he endorses, but they are afraid of getting defeated in a primary.

“We’ve gotta break that. It’s gotta change,” Biden said.

When asked to name those five Republicans, Biden declined to say.

Some context: Biden’s response comes after he made clear that he did not expect the level of “stalwart” Republican obstruction to his agenda during his first year in office, saying he would spend more time directly making his case to the American people going forward. 


5:32 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

Biden: Harris will be my running mate in 2024

(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Biden didn't hesitate when asked if he was satisfied with Vice President Kamala Harris' work on voting rights and if she would be his running mate in 2024.

"Yes, and yes," Biden fired back to the question.

"She's going to be my running mate, number one. And number two, I did put her in charge [of voting rights]. I think she's doing a good job," he added.


5:25 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

Biden says his "report card" going into the midterm elections looks "pretty good"

President Biden was asked about comments from Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell that the midterm elections are going to be a report card on Biden's progress on inflation, border security and standing up to Russia. 

"I think the report card is going to look pretty good," Biden responded.

Biden continued: "I actually like Mitch Mcconnell. We like one another but he has one straightforward objective. Make sure that there's nothing I do that makes me look good ... with the public at large." 

Biden said he's a "big boy" and he's "happy to debate and have a referendum on how I handled the economy" and whether he's made "progress." 

"I think that the fundamental question is, what's Mitch for? What's he for on immigration? What's he for? What's he proposing?" Biden added. "What's he for dealing with Russia? ... What's he for on these things? What are they for? So everything is a choice."


4:57 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

Biden says Democrats will likely have to break up his Build Back Better bill

From CNN's Allie Malloy

President Biden said that in order to get his Build Back Better agenda passed, he will have to “break it up” and get as much of it through as possible and “come back and fight for the rest later.” 

“It’s clear to me that we’re gonna have to probably break it up,” Biden acknowledged for the first time since the bill stalled to a halt in December.

“I think we can break the package up, get as much as we can now, come back and fight for the rest later,” Biden added.

Biden said it’s “clear” he would be able to get support on several issues in the bill, including the $500 billion dollars for energy and environmental issues.

Biden also said he knew that there are things in the bill that Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema support, including early education and “strong support for the number in which to pay for this proposal.”

“Get as much as we can now,” Biden said.

5:17 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

Biden predicts Russian invasion of Ukraine, but "minor incursion" may prompt discussion over consequences

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Biden predicted a Russian invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday, citing existential concerns by the country's President Vladimir Putin, even as he warned of significant economic consequences when such an incursion occurs. 

But he suggested a "minor incursion" would elicit a lesser response than a full-scale invasion of the country.

Biden's prediction of an invasion is the firmest acknowledgment to date the United States fully expects Putin to move after amassing 100,000 troops along the Ukraine border.

"I'm not so sure he is certain what he is going to do. My guess is he will move in. He has to do something," Biden said, describing a leader searching for relevance in a post-Soviet world: "He is trying to find his place in the world between China and the West."

After speaking with Putin twice last month, Biden said he believed his Russian counterpart had a good understanding of the economic sanctions he was preparing to enact.

"He's never seen sanctions like the ones I promised will be imposed if he moves, number one," he said, adding the level of punishment would depend on what Russia's invasion looks like: "It's one thing if it's a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not do, et cetera."

 "But if they actually do what they're capable of doing with the forces amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine. And that our allies and partners are ready to impose severe cost and significant harm on Russia and the Russian economy," he said.