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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

1 min ago - Health

Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-targeted COVID vaccine

A health worker in Palestine preparing a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine on Jan. 24. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech announced Tuesday that they have started clinical trials for a reformulated vaccine to protect against the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Why it matters: The rise of the Omicron variant has forced vaccine makers to reassess the effectiveness of their vaccines.

Retail stock traders power stunning comeback after deep selloff

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Stocks staged a Patrick Mahomes-esque comeback Monday, after plunging for the first few hours of trading.

Why it matters: The remarkable recovery suggests that retail traders who upended markets over the last year — most notably during the GameStop bonanza that occurred almost exactly a year ago — continue to be powerful influence in the markets.

America can't quit polarizing politicians

Expand chart
Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

New data finds that the nation's most polarizing politicians are often the ones that garner the most attention online.

Why it matters: Online engagement helps politicians build a bigger national profile and more fundraising power, incentivizing them be more outrageous, more polarizing and more divisive.

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