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Photo: Pool/Getty

President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have exchanged sharp words ahead of their tête-à-tête today at the NATO summit in Brussels.

The big picture: Merkel is notoriously more tight-lipped than Trump, but his comments in his first NATO meeting that Germany is "totally controlled by Russia" for its energy deal struck a chord with the chancellor. Merkel, who grew up under East Germany's Soviet occupation, hit back at Trump Wednesday, and said that she "experienced the Soviet occupation ... it is good that we are independent today."

Why it matters: Trump and Merkel's relationship has been fraught for months, and Trump has repeatedly targeted Germany in his complaints that NATO members don't contribute enough to defense spending. Their private meeting today will be further complicated by these attacks, which seem to be increasingly personal and could negatively impact relations between two of the world's biggest economies.

Be smart: How to make sense of NATO members' defense spending.

Go deeper

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.

Bush labels Clyburn the “savior” for Democrats

House Majority Whip James Clyburn takes a selfie Wednesday with former President George W. Bush. Photo: Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images

Former President George W. Bush credited Rep. James Clyburn with being the "savior" of the Democratic Party, telling the South Carolinian at Wednesday's inauguration his endorsement allowed Joe Biden to win the party's presidential nomination.

Why it matters: The nation's last two-term Republican president also said Clyburn's nod allowed for the transfer of power, because he felt only Biden had the ability to unseat President Trump.