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President Biden said in an interview with ABC Wednesday that he believes Vladimir Putin is a "killer," and promised that the Russian president will "pay a price" for interfering in the 2020 U.S. elections.

Why it matters: Biden has pledged to take a hard line against the Kremlin, which has a history of attempting to assassinate and imprison dissidents and political opponents.

  • The U.S. intelligence community released a report on Tuesday assessing that Putin authorized election influence operations aimed at denigrating Biden's candidacy, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the election and sowing divisions.
  • The U.S. also sanctioned seven senior Russian officials earlier this month over the poisoning and jailing of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who is currently serving out a sentence in a remote Russian labor camp.

What they're saying: While Biden confirmed that he does believe Putin is a killer, he also added that it's possible to "walk and chew gum at the same time for places where it's in our mutual interest to to work together" — addressing his decision to extend the New START nuclear arms control pact earlier this year.

  • "He will pay a price. We had a long talk, he and I. I know him relatively well and the conversation started off, I said, 'I know you and you know me. If I establish this occurred then be prepared,'" Biden said when asked how the U.S. should respond to Russia's election interference.

Referencing President George W. Bush's famous comments about getting a "sense" of Putin's "soul," Biden told ABC: "I said, 'I looked in your eyes and I don't think you have a soul.' He looked back and said we understand each other."

  • "Look, the most important thing in dealing with foreign leaders in my experience, and I've dealt with an awful lot of them in my career, is just know the other guy."

Flashback: Former President Trump said in a 2017 interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly that he has "respect" for Putin.

  • O'Reilly responded that "Putin is a killer," to which Trump said: "There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers. Well, you think our country is so innocent?"

Go deeper

Top general: Calls to China were "perfectly within the duties" of job

Gen. Mark Milley. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley told the Associated Press on Friday that calls with his Chinese counterpart during the final months of Donald Trump's presidency were "perfectly within the duties and responsibilities" of his job.

Why it matters: In his first public comments on the calls that have prompted critics to question whether the general went too far, Milley maintained that such conversations are "routine," per AP.

The consumer's massive "war chest"

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Economists expect the pace of economic growth to cool off now that government transfer payments like stimulus checks and emergency unemployment benefits are in the rearview mirror. But evidence suggests that the U.S. consumer is sitting on a lot of financial firepower that could be a key driver of growth in the quarters to come.

Why it matters: U.S. consumer spending is massive, representing about 70% of GDP.

The Fed takes on its own rules amid stock trading controversy

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New disclosures that showed Fed officials were active in financial markets set off a firestorm of criticism. Now the Fed may overhaul the long-standing rules that allow those transactions.

Why it matters: What officials actively traded was sensitive to the Fed decisions they helped shape, including the unprecedented support that underpinned a massive financial market boom.

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