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Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Today's press briefing centered around President Trump's congratulatory phone call to Vladimir Putin, which Sen. John McCain had criticized, saying, “An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections."

Asked whether the election had been free and fair, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the U.S. can't "dictate how other countries operate." She also said there were "no specific plans made at this time" for a meeting between Trump and Putin. Trump had said earlier Tuesday they'd be meeting in the "not too distant future."

  • Sanders said the issue of Russian election meddling did not come up on the call between Trump and Putin, nor did the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal with a Russian-made nerve agent in the U.K.
  • On the Russia investigation: "To pretend like going through this absurd process for over a year would not bring frustration seems a little ridiculous."
  • Sanders said Trump isn't considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller, and that the White House doesn't "feel like that's the most productive step forward."
  • On the issue of human rights violations in Yemen, Sanders said she is "not aware that that came up specifically" with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Go deeper

12 mins ago - Health

Standardized testing becomes another pandemic victim

Photo: Edmund D. Fountain for The Washington Post via Getty

National standardized reading and math tests have been pushed from next year to 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: There’s mounting national evidence that students are suffering major setbacks this year, with a surge in the number of failing grades.

36 mins ago - World

European countries extend lockdowns

A medical worker takes a COVID-19 throat swab sample at the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. Photo by Maja Hitij via Getty

Recent spikes in COVID-19 infections across Europe have led authorities to extend restrictions ahead of the holiday season.

Why it matters: "Relaxing too fast and too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

1 hour ago - Health

Africa CDC: Vaccines likely won't be available until Q2 of 2021

Africa CDC director Dr. John Nkengasong. Photo: Mohammed Abdu Abdulbaqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Africa may have to wait until the second quarter of 2021 to roll out vaccines, Africa CDC director John Nkengasong said Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: “I have seen how Africa is neglected when drugs are available,” Nkengasong said.