Putin weaponizes BLM, Jan. 6 in exploiting US divisions: The Note

The TAKE with Rick Klein

It was a summit that might be remembered for its relative calm, with vague statements of optimism and a formal commitment to “stability,” along with a joint affinity for quoting President Joe Biden’s mom.

But beyond Russian President Vladimir Putin’s refusal to take responsibility for aggressive acts on the international stage, up to and including attempts to interfere with American elections, Putin showed a keen understanding of U.S. domestic politics that will follow Biden back home.

PHOTO: Russia's President Vladimir Putin holds a news conference after the U.S.-Russia summit with U.S. President Joe Biden at Villa La Grange in Geneva, June 16, 2021.

Asked by ABC News congressional correspondent Rachel Scott about his efforts to silence political opponents, Putin responded with a pointed and false — but still potent — brand of what-aboutism. He attributed “destruction, violations of the law” to the Black Lives Matter movement — and parroted misleading talking points in reference to Jan. 6.

“As for who is killing whom and throwing whom in jail, people came to the U.S. Congress with political demands,” Putin said in response. “Some people died. And one of the people that died was shot on the spot by the police, although they were not threatening the police with any weapons.”

Biden dismissed what he called a “ridiculous comparison.” But if Putin’s words sound familiar, it may because similar arguments have made their way from the far-right fringe into the mouths of pro-Trump Republicans, including some members of Congress who were themselves threatened the day of the attack on the Capitol.

PHOTO: U.S President Joe Biden speaks to journalists as he is about to leave his press conference after the US-Russia summit in Geneva, June 16, 2021.

After the summit, Biden emphasized repeatedly that it will take months or longer to determine success. In interactions with reporters before boarding his plane home, Biden seemed to bristle at any suggestion that he doesn’t understand who he’s dealing with when it comes to the Russian president.

Putin, meanwhile, showed an understanding if not of Biden than of the political world Biden inhabits. Much work remains on the diplomatic front — and also at home.

The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema

As the sole Democrat who is not fully backing his party’s sweeping voting rights legislation, Joe Manchin is in a complicated position that he says he wouldn’t wish on others.

“I do not like the situation I am in. I do not recommend this to anybody. But I have not changed my voting,” Manchin told reporters on Wednesday.

In what appears to be an effort to get out of that unfavorable situation, Manchin is leaning into the possibility of a compromise. As reported by ABC News’ Trish Turner, the West Virginia senator said he is open to supporting changes to the federal election legislation, while suggesting a slate of changes he wants to see included in the “For the People Act” before it is brought to a vote next week.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., talks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington on June 16, 2021.

The proposed list of changes Manchin suggested in a memo to leadership includes a voter ID requirement, as well as a provision that would enshrine the purging of voter rolls. Both suggestions are likely to be met with strong pushback from his Democratic colleagues.

While it remains to be seen how the list of changes is received, the pressure to come to an agreement on a policy deemed a major priority by the White House is building.

During a meeting with Texas legislators who stalled the passage of an election overhaul bill in their state last month, Vice President Kamala Harris said she and Biden remain committed to passing both the “John Lewis Voting Rights Act” and the “For The People Act.”

The TIP with Meg Cunningham

As Democrats in Texas head home to hit restart on potential voting reforms facing their state after a visit to Washington, Republicans in Pennsylvania are gearing up for tension with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to try and find common ground on voting legislation of their own.

Republicans are looking to reassess some of the state’s voting provisions, and the ball is entirely in the governor’s court. Many members of the state GOP participated in efforts to overturn the election and are still continuing calls for an additional “audit” of the vote. Wolf has been adamant about his opposition of the proposed changes, specifically singling out heightened voter identification requirements.

People line up outside a polling place in Springfield, Pennsylvania, to vote in the 2020 general election on Nov. 3, 2020.

A sponsor of one GOP-led bill wrote to Wolf on Wednesday, asking him to be open to negotiate.

“To put it plainly, Gov. Wolf: How do you know what we are willing to change or compromise on in this bill if you will not come to the table?” Rep. Seth Grove said.

Wolf hasn’t issued a reply to Grove, but did throw a subtle jab in a tweet Wednesday afternoon, saying, “The same lawmakers who turned their backs on the will of Pennsylvanians during the November elections are now pushing bills to create barriers for voters. I will not support any legislation that rolls back the voting freedoms and rights of our citizens.”


ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. Thursday morning’s episode features ABC News congressional correspondent Rachel Scott and chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz, who give us a full recap of President Joe Biden’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Then, ABC News’ Kiara Alfonseca explains why some states are moving to ban critical race theory in schools. And ABC News chief business and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis tells us what the cost of lumber can tell us about the broader economy. http://apple.co/2HPocUL


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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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