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Mikhail Klimentyev, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

President Trump began his high-stakes Putin meeting, according to an account by the N.Y. Times' Glenn Thrush, by saying: "I'm going to get this out of the way: Did you do this?"

  • Russian hacking/propaganda ops in the 2016 election aren't a question in many minds besides Trump's. So that's certainly not a very muscular opening if you're interested in deterrence or retribution.
  • But Trump has shown little inclination for either: Not only does he not buy the extent of the Russian transgression, he has continued to call it "fake" in private.
  • Axios' Jonathan Swan texts me: "The cognitive dissonance — between his pride in his victory, and the fact that a sinister foreign force might've helped him — is too strong for him to ever fully believe it."

During an Air Force One briefing on the way home, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters: "What the President and Secretary [of State] Tillerson charged us with as they came out of the meeting is what we're going to do going forward."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in the same gaggle, added one intriguing detail: "After a very substantive discussion on this, they reached an agreement that they would start a cyber unit to make sure that there was absolutely no interference whatsoever, that they would work on cybersecurity together."

Good luck with that! Marco Rubio tweets: "Partnering with Putin on a 'Cyber Security Unit' is akin to partnering with Assad on a 'Chemical Weapons Unit.'"

For all the back-patting among his aides as they post-gamed the trip, they were reminded of the water torture that they were returning to: While Air Force One was aloft, the N.Y. Times posted a front-page story about a meeting last June with "a Russian lawyer who has connections to the Kremlin," arranged by one of Trump's sons, Don Jr., and attended by Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Be smart: Russia is the story of this presidency. Think about the past month alone: multiple investigations of collusion in full swing ... Trump at odds with virtually every federally elected Republican over Russia sanctions ... Trump-Putin meeting overshadows G-20 ... and now our Syria strategy hinges on Russia cooperation. It's like a Trump-Putin ticket is running the world!

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Go deeper

Updated 11 mins ago - World

Fatal stabbing of British MP David Amess declared a terrorist incident

Police outside Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, England, on Oct. 15. Photo: John Keeble/Getty Images

Authorities have declared the death of David Amess a terrorist incident, hours after the Conservative Party lawmaker in the U.K. was fatally stabbed while meeting with local constituents in a church in eastern England on Friday.

The big picture: The Metropolitan Police has found "a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism."

Biden: DOJ should prosecute those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas

President Biden speaks with reporters at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that the Justice Department should prosecute those who defy subpoenas from the Jan. 6 select committee.

Why it matters: The president's remarks come one day after Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon failed to show up for a deposition before the committee.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Bill Clinton hospitalized for non-COVID-related infection

Former President Bill Clinton. Photo: Win McNamee/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Bill Clinton was admitted to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center on Tuesday for a non-COVID-related infection, his spokesperson Angel Ureña said Thursday.

The latest: In an update on Friday, Ureña said Clinton's health indicators are "trending in the right direction, including his white blood count which has decreased significantly."