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Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

At Wednesday's press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that President Trump responded "no" to taking questions in a press conference earlier that day — not to the question of whether he believes Russia is still targeting U.S. elections.

Why it matters: When asked whether Trump does believe that Russia is an ongoing threat to the U.S.'s election security, Sanders said, "[h]e does believe they would target U.S. elections again" adding, "certainly, we believe that the threat still exists." When pressed on why Trump has seemingly reversed his position on this issue twice this week, Sanders said that she was "interpreting" the president not "reversing" his position.

Other takeaways:

  • Sanders acknowledged that Putin talked to Trump about being able to question former U.S. ambassador Michale McFaul and foreign investor Bill Browder, but said that no commitment had been made. "The President will work with his team and we’ll let you know if there’s an announcement on that front.”
  • She did not directly answer the question of whether Trump believes Russia's attempts to interfere in U.S. elections are attacks on U.S. democracy.
  • "Trump has been extremely tough on Russia and to say anything else is simply not true," she argued.
  • "The president has made clear to Vladimir Putin that he should stay out of U.S. elections."
  • On Trump's comments about "others" who could have meddled in the 2016 elections: "We are aware of others that have made attempts, but I can’t get into any of that here at this point."
  • As to whether there was a recorder in the Putin-Trump meeting: "I'm not aware of one."

Go deeper

The Mischief Makers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as troublemakers within their parties and political thorns for their leadership.

Why it matters: We're calling this group "The Mischief Makers" — members who threaten to upend party unity — the theme eclipsing Washington at the moment — and potentially jeopardize the Democrats' or Republicans' position heading into the 2022 midterms.

51 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Obama speechwriter fears Biden unity drive is one-sided

Cody Keenan (right) is shown heading to Marine One in December 2009. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Obama's former speechwriter says he's "preemptively frustrated" with President Biden's effort to find unity with Republicans.

What they're saying: Cody Keenan told Axios that Biden's messaging team has "struck all the right chords," but at some point "they're gonna have to answer questions like, 'Why didn't you achieve unity?' when there's an entire political party that's already acting to stop it."

Scoop: Conservative group puts $700k behind Hawley

Sen. Josh Hawley explains his objection to certifying the 2020 election results hours after the U.S. Capitol siege. Photo: Congress.gov via Getty Images

A Republican group is raising and spending huge amounts of money defending Sen. Josh Hawley after he was ostracized for early January’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Why it matters: The Senate Conservatives Fund is plugging Hawley's ideological bona fides and backfilling lost corporate cash with needed political and financial support, helping inoculate him as he weighs reelection or a possible presidential campaign in 2024.