Biden ‘working with Macron’ to hold Russia accountable for ‘brutal’ Ukraine war – as it happened

2 months ago

Biden ‘working with Macron’ to hold Russia accountable for ‘brutal’ Ukraine war – as it happened

The Guardian

Closing summary

We’re closing our US politics blog now after a day dominated by French president Emmanuel Macron’s state visit to Washington DC, the first of Joe Biden’s presidency. Thanks for joining us.

Several significant talking points emerged:

  • Joe Biden says he’ll speak with Vladimir Putin, but only if the Russian president is serious about wanting to end the war in Ukraine.

  • Biden and Macron appeared at a joint press conference to condemn the brutality of Putin’s aggression against civilians in Ukraine, and promised to jointly hold Russia accountable.

  • The US president acknowledged there were “glitches” in the climate provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act that European countries, including France, say disadvantages their companies. Biden says they can be “tweaked” to favor allies.

We’ve also been following these developments:

  • A national rail strike has been averted after the US Senate voted 80-15 to impose a labor deal on workers. The bill heads for Biden’s signature after the House of Representatives approved the measure on Wednesday.

  • Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, an ally of outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House majority leader Steny Hoyer, was elected assistant leader of the Democratic House caucus.

Please join us again tomorrow.

Meanwhile, take a read of my colleague David Smith’s report on Biden’s meeting with Macron, and how it has helped heal the rift in their relationship:

Senate votes to avert national rail shutdown

The Senate has voted 80-15 to implement a labor deal and avert a national rail strike on 9 December that the Biden administration and business leaders warned would have had devastating consequences for the nation’s economy.

The Senate passed a bill to bind rail companies and workers to a proposed settlement that was reached between the rail companies and union leaders in September. That settlement had been rejected by some of the 12 unions involved, creating the possibility of a strike next week.

The Senate vote came one day after the House voted to impose the agreement. The measure now goes to Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

“I’m very glad that the two sides got together to avoid a shutdown, which would have been devastating for the American people, to the American economy and so many workers across the country,” Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer told reporters.

Updated

The Senate is moving quickly to hold a series of votes Thursday afternoon that could stave off a national rail strike that the Biden administration and business leaders say would greatly damage the economy.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer announced a deal to hold three votes related to the rail negotiations, the Associated Press reports, with the final vote on whether to bind rail companies and workers to a proposed settlement that was reached in September.

That settlement had been rejected by some of the 12 unions involved, creating the possibility of a strike. The House has already voted to impose that agreement anyway.

“I’m very glad that the two sides got together to avoid a shutdown, which would have been devastating for the American people, to the American economy and so many workers across the country,” Schumer told reporters.

Joe Biden who had urged Congress to intervene earlier this week, defended the contract that four of the unions had rejected, noting the wage increases it contains.

“I negotiated a contract no one else could negotiate,” Biden said at a news briefing with French President Emmanuel Macron. “What was negotiated was so much better than anything they ever had.”

Read more:

The US Supreme Court will hear Joe Biden’s bid to reinstate his plan to cancel billions of dollars in student debt, after it was blocked by a lower court in a challenge by six states that accused his administration of exceeding its authority.

According to Reuters, justices deferred taking action on Biden’s request to immediately lift an injunction issued on 14 November by the St Louis-based 8th US circuit court of appeals, but said in a brief order that they would hear oral arguments in their session from late February to early March.

The challenge to Biden policy was brought by Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina. Five are Republican governed while the other, Kansas, has a Republican attorney general.

The policy faces another hurdle as the administration contests a separate 10 November ruling by a federal judge in Texas deeming the program unlawful. A federal appeals court on Wednesday declined to put that decision on hold, and the administration said it plans to ask the Supreme Court to intervene.

Read more:

Lawyers for the Trump Organization were admonished in court Thursday for showing jurors in the company’s criminal tax fraud trial portions of witness testimony that had not been entered into evidence.

Judge Juan Manuel Merchan halted closing arguments in the case in New York after prosecutors objected to Trump Org attorney Susan Necheles presenting in a slideshow testimony that the jurors hadn’t previously heard, the Associated Press reports.

The trial continued after a half-hour break and admonishment for Necheles from Merchan.

Necheles insisted she had not intended to show any testimony that had been stricken. “Ladies and gentlemen, I apologize for that error,” she told jurors at the resumption.

The transcript kerfuffle was, the AP says, just the latest dust-up involving Trump Organization lawyers. Earlier this week, Merchan scolded the defense for submitting hundreds of pages of court papers just before midnight Sunday.

The company, through which Donald Trump manages his real estate holdings and other ventures, is accused of helping some top executives avoid paying income taxes on company-paid perks, such as apartments and luxury cars.

The tax fraud case is the only trial to arise from the Manhattan district attorney’s three-year investigation of Trump and his business practices.

Biden: 'I'll speak with Putin if he wants to end Ukraine war'

One significant moment of note towards the end of the Biden-Macron press briefing, the US president says he’s willing to talk with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, but only if he’s willing to discuss ending his country’s war in Ukraine.

Biden repeated his often-heard line that he has no plans to contact Putin, whom he and French president Emmanuel Macron condemned unequivocally today for the brutality of the Russian assault on Ukraine’s civilian population.

But he said he would be open to listening to what Putin had to say:

There’s one way for this war to end rationally, Putin to pull out of Ukraine, and it appears he’s not going to do that. It’s sick, what he’s doing.

I’ll choose my words very carefully. I’m prepared to speak with Mr Putin, if in fact there is an interest in him deciding he’s looking for a way to end the war. He hasn’t done that yet.

If that’s the case, in consultation with my French and my Nato friends, I’ll be happy to sit down with Putin to see what he has in mind.

I’m prepared, if he’s willing to talk, to find out what he’s willing to do, but I’ll only do it in consultation with my Nato allies. I’m not going to do it on my own.

Biden acknowledges inflation act 'glitches'

Answering questions from the media, Joe Biden conceded there were “glitches” in clean energy provisions in the inflation reduction act that angered many in Europe, but said there were “tweaks we can make” to satisfy allies.

Macron was among the European leaders who felt the $430bn US law would put European companies at a disadvantage.

“The United States makes no apology, and I make no apologies since I wrote the legislation you’re talking about,” Biden told the reporter.

“But there are occasions when you write a massive piece of legislation for the largest investment in climate change in all of history, there’s obviously going to be glitches in it, and a need to reconcile changes.”

Macron has made clear that he and other European leaders are concerned about incentives in the law that favor American-made climate technology, including electric vehicles.

Biden added: “There’s tweaks we can make that can fundamentally make it easier for European countries to participate… that is something to be worked out. It was never intended when I wrote the legislation to exclude folks who were cooperating with us.”

Read more:

In his remarks, Emmanuel Macron spoke at length about the importance of supporting Ukraine, its military and people with financial support and other humanitarian aid, and praised the US commitment to that cause.

He reiterated that it would be Ukraine’s decision when it was ready to pursue peace:

We always agreed to help Ukraine resist, never giving up on anything in the United Nations charter, to prevent any risk of escalation of this conflict, and make sure that when the time comes, on the basis of conditions to be set by Ukrainians themselves, help build peace.

In an apparent dig at Donald Trump, and the former president’s decision – rescinded by Biden – to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, Macron praised Biden’s commitment to environmental issues.

The fact that you’re back, on major international challenges such as health and climate, it is really a new deal.

We’ve been resisting for a number of years, and now we’re being able to engage with you. I would like to say how much has been achieved by both our countries.

Macron said France and the US would be exploring ways to assist developing countries financially:

We want to promote solutions on climate change, but we also very acknowledge a number of initiatives in this respect. It is about finding a new financing means for the most fragile countries, emerging countries to support them on both development and climate change.

Updated

Biden said he and Macron were also committed to “reaching our goal of ending the Aids epidemic by 2030”:

We just have to make finishing this fight a top priority for not just the two of us, but for other nations as well. And that’s why I’m proud to take the baton from you President Macron, and host the global fund’s seventh replenishment conference this year.

Building on France’s strong record of leadership, we raised $15.7bn with the US and France as the two largest contributors to the global fund. And it’s good to save millions, literally millions of lives.

Biden said if he went on to list all the ways the US and France were in partnership, “we’d be here until dinnertime”, so he closed his prepared remarks with praise for a student exchange program with France, and told Macron the floor was his…

Joe Biden praised France for taking in 100,000 Ukraine refugees, and commended efforts by Europe to move away from energy dependence on Russia.

“I welcome the progress we’ve already made in many of these issues through the US-EU task force on energy security, and today we also committed to deepening cooperation between France and the United States on civil nuclear energy through our bilateral clean energy partnership,” Biden said.

Other topics discussed, the US president said, included the Middle East, where Biden recognized Macron for helping to broker a maritime boundaries deal between Israel and Lebanon; human rights abuses; and efforts “to ensure that Iran does not, emphasize does not, ever acquire nuclear weapons”.

He said the two countries were committed to working together for peace in the Middle East and Afghanistan:

Our partnership also extends to cooperating in outer space, coordinating defense of our space activities, to strengthening scientific efforts to monitor Earth’s changing climate.

And we had a detailed discussion of inflation reduction. We did talk about [how] the US and and Europe share the goal of making bold investments in clean energy.

Biden 'working with Macron' to hold Russia accountable for Ukraine war

Joe Biden says he’s working with French president Emmanuel Macron to hold Russia accountable for its aggression in Ukraine.

Speaking at the White House following their summit this morning, Biden says the two leaders “talked a lot” about the war:

We’re continuing to strong support people in Ukraine as they defend their homes and their families, and their sovereignty and territorial integrity, against Russian aggression, which is incredibly brutal.

We’re going to stand together against this brutality. And we’ll continue the strong support for the Ukrainian people as they defend their homes and their families, nurseries their hospitals, their sovereignty, their integrity, against Russian aggression.

[Russian president Vladimir] Putin thinks that he can crush the will of all those oppose his imperial ambitions by attacking civilian infrastructures and Ukraine, choking off energy to Europe to drive up prices, exasperating food through the food crisis, that’s hurting very vulnerable people, not just in Ukraine but around the world.

He’s not going to succeed. President Macron and I have resolved that we’re going to continue working together to hold Russia accountable for their actions and to mitigate the global impacts of Putin’s war.

A joint press conference by Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron is under way at the White House following bilateral talks at the White House this morning.

The US president says he and his French counterpart had “a great conversation".

“France is one of our strongest partners and most capable allies. We share the same values,” Biden says.

He says the leaders “talked a lot” about the war in Ukraine.

We’ll bring you their comments as they speak.

Buttigieg: rail strike would 'shut down economy'

The US economy would face a severe economic shock if senators don’t pass legislation this week to avert a freight rail workers’ strike, Democrats in the chamber are hearing today, according to the Associated Press.

Senators held a closed-door session with Biden administration officials Thursday, following a House vote last night approving a deal to avert such a nationwide strike. They are being urged to quickly vote the deal through.

But the Senate often works at a slower pace, and the timing of final votes on the measure is unclear.

Pete Buttigieg.
Pete Buttigieg. Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP

Labor secretary Marty Walsh and transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg met the Democratic senators to underscore that rail companies will begin shuttering operations well before a potential strike begins on 9 December.

“If there’s even the possibility of a shutdown, about five days in advance of that, the railroads would have to begin winding down their acceptance of things like hazardous material shipments that you can’t allow to get stranded,” Buttigieg said in a CNBC interview.

“So my goal today speaking to the senators will be to make sure they understand the implications of a shutdown or even getting close to a shutdown,” he said. “It wouldn’t just bring down our rail system. It would really shut down our economy.”

Railways say that halting rail service would cause a devastating $2bn-per-day hit to the economy. A freight rail strike also would have a big potential impact on passenger rail, with Amtrak and many commuter railroads relying on tracks owned by the freight railroads.

The rail companies and 12 unions have been negotiating. The Biden administration helped broker deals between the railroads and union leaders in September, but four of the unions rejected the deals. Eight others approved five-year deals and are getting back pay for their workers for the 24% raises that are retroactive to 2020.

On Monday, with the strike looming, Biden called on Congress to impose the tentative agreement reached in September.

Read more:

While we wait for Biden and Macron to appear, here’s Hamilton Nolan on a domestic issue facing the US president: his move to stop a rail strike and how many in the union movement have been left feeling betrayed …

It’s sad, really. Beleaguered US labor unions thought that they had finally found a true friend. In Joe Biden, they had a man who was the most pro-union president in my lifetime – a low bar to clear, but something. Yet this week we found out that when the fight got difficult, Biden had the same thing to say to working people that his Democratic predecessors have said for decades: “You’ll never get anything you want if I don’t win; but once I win, I can’t do the things you need, because then I wouldn’t be able to win again.”

At the same time that thousands of union members are fanned out across the state of Georgia knocking on doors to get Raphael Warnock elected and solidify Democratic control of the Senate – to save the working class, of course! – Biden decided to sell out workers in the single biggest labor battle of his administration. Rather than allowing the nation’s railroad workers to exercise their right to strike, he used his power to intervene and force them to accept a deal that a majority of those workers found to be unacceptable.

His ability to do this rests on the vagaries of the Railway Labor Act, but all you really need to understand is this: nobody forced him to side with the railroad companies over the workers. That was a choice. The White House just weighed the political damage it anticipated from Republicans screaming about a Christmas-season rail strike against the fact that railroad workers have inhuman working conditions and would need to go on strike to change that, and chose the easier political route. This was a “Which side are you on?” moment, and Biden made his position clear.

Read on:

Updated

We’re still waiting for Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron to appear for their press conference at the White House.

Elsewhere in Washington, the Florida Republican congressman Matt Gaetz might be a little uneasy today, as a former tax collector whose arrest led to a wide-ranging sex-trafficking investigation faces sentencing.

Gaetz, a prominent ally of Donald Trump on the hard right of the Republican party, is under investigation into whether he paid a 17-year-old for sex. He has denied the allegations and claimed they are part of an extortion plot. He has not been charged.

The Associated Press reports that in an appeal for clemency, an attorney for the former Seminole county tax collector, Joel Greenberg, said his client “had assisted in investigations of 24 people, including eight for sex crimes, and that his cooperation had led to four federal indictments, with two more expected in the coming month”.

But though prosecutors asked for a significant reduction in Greenberg’s sentence, the judge in the case has indicated that may not happen.

The AP continues: “Greenberg pleaded guilty to six federal crimes, including sex trafficking of a minor, identity theft, stalking, wire fraud and conspiracy to bribe a public official. Prosecutors said he paid at least one girl to have sex with him and other men.”

His lawyer said Greenberg had “provided significant substantial assistance to the government in the areas of public corruption, election fraud, wire fraud, and sex trafficking”.

South Carolina congressman James Clyburn, regarded the architect of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, has won the election to be assistant Democratic leader in the next Congress.

David Cicilline of Rhode Island withdrew his challenge this morning, The Hill reports, paving the way for Clyburn, currently the Democratic whip, to secure the job.

Clyburn, who has been in Congress for three decades, had been expected by some to also stand down following the departures, following the midterms, of fellow Democratic “old guard” leaders, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House majority leader Steny Hoyer.

On Wednesday, House Democrats elected Hakeem Jeffries as their new leader, making him the first Black American to lead a major political party in Congress.

In a statement Thursday morning, Clyburn wrote: “Today I am honored by the House Democratic Caucus’ support of me to serve in the next Congress as the assistant Democratic leader.

“It is important that communities like the ones I represent have a seat at the leadership table as we move forward in the next Congress. We, as House Democrats, must speak for rural communities, for the South, and for communities that have been left out of economic progress of previous generations.”

Updated

Barack Obama will campaign for Raphael Warnock in Georgia on Thursday night, as early voting in the US Senate runoff closes and as Herschel Walker, the Republican challenger to the Democratic incumbent, faces yet more controversy, Martin Pengelly reports.

Herschel Walker.
Herschel Walker. Photograph: Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/AP

On Thursday, a former girlfriend told the Daily Beast that in 2005, when she caught Walker with another woman, he “grew enraged, put his hands on her chest and neck, and swung his fist at her”.

“I thought he was going to beat me,” Cheryl Parsa said, adding that she “fled in fear”.

Four other women told the Beast they had relationships with Walker, describing “a habit of lying and infidelity – including one woman who claimed she had an affair with Walker while he was married in the 1990s”.

Parsa, who the Beast said had “composed a book-length manuscript about her relationship with Walker”, called the former college and NFL football star “a pathological liar”.

Walker has often discussed his struggle with dissociative identity disorder.

Parsa said: “He knows how to manipulate his disease, in order to manipulate people, while at times being simultaneously completely out of control.”

She also said that when she was with Walker, he used his disorder as an “alibi” to “justify lying, cheating, and ultimately destroying families”.

Walker did not comment.

The latest Daily Beast story joins a line of reports about his life before entering Republican politics and securing Donald Trump’s endorsement and with it the nomination in Georgia.

Walker is alleged to have pressured women to have abortions, behaved violently, and lied about his business career and supposed ties to law enforcement.

Read the full story:

Macron: Ukraine war 'first topic of discussion'

Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron have been previewing what’s going to be on the agenda at their meeting today. The leaders were sat in armchairs before a roaring log fire in the Oval Office at the White House, mulling the “close coordination” between the countries, as the French president describes it.

Macron says Russia’s war in Ukraine will be “the first topic of discussion”.

Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden preview their meeting in the Oval Office.
Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden preview their meeting in the Oval Office. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

There’s a little confusion about the timings. It had originally been thought the two presidents would host a press conference at 11.45am ET after their talks, but the fireside chat now, ahead of the meeting, would seem to suggest that will likely be taking place much later than first scheduled.

Biden previewed the discussions:

We are a real inflection point. Things are changing rapidly, really rapidly. And it’s really important that we stay in close communication. It doesn’t mean that every single solitary thing we agree on, but it does mean we agree on almost everything.

We’re working together to strengthen the security and prosperity across the Atlantic and each of our countries, but also Europe as a whole. Emmanuel is not just the leader of France, he’s among the leaders of Europe.

This morning, we’re going to discuss our cooperation on all the issues from high-tech commerce to defense, to cyber, to space, to a whole range of issues that are on both of our agendas.

Macron spoke on working with the US to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian invasion:

Obviously, it will be the first topic of discussion for both of us. Since the very beginning of this war we’ve worked very hard together in order to help Ukraine to resist and to be resilient, and we will reinforce this.

But we want to build peace, and sustainable peace means full respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, but at the same time a new architecture, to be sure that we have a sustainable peace in the long run.

Also to be discussed, Macron says: A “carbon neutral economy, creating a lot of jobs, which means investing a lot in our economies, and we have to synchronize our action on this issue”, as well as “climate change and biodiversity”.

Martin Pengelly reports on the latest twist concerning Donald Trump’s tax returns:

A US House of Representatives committee has obtained access to Donald Trump’s tax returns, following a years-long court fight with the former president who has accused the Democratic-led panel of being politically motivated.

“Treasury has complied with last week’s court decision,” a treasury department spokesperson said in an emailed statement late on Wednesday. The spokesperson declined to say whether the committee had accessed the documents.

The supreme court ordered the release of six years of returns last Tuesday, rejecting Trump’s plea to stop the treasury from acting.

On Wednesday, the release of the tax returns was first reported by CNN. According to the network, which cited an unnamed aide to the Democratic committee chair, Richard Neal, Democrats on the panel were due to be briefed on Thursday on the “legal ramifications on section of the tax law that … Neal used to request Trump’s tax returns” but would not immediately see the returns.

Neal, of Massachusetts, “declined to say if he has seen” the returns himself, the CNN reporter Manu Raju said.

Asked if Democrats would release the returns to the public, Neal told CNN: “The next step is to have a meeting of the Democratic caucus.”

The committee has been seeking returns spanning 2015 through 2020, which it says it needs to establish whether the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is properly auditing presidential returns and whether new legislation is needed.

The House ways and means committee first requested Trump’s returns in 2019. A major question hanging over the panel now is what will happen to the returns when Republicans take control of the House in January.

Read the full story:

Macron urges US and France to become 'brothers in arms once more'

Here’s some more of Emmanuel Macron’s comments at the White House this morning, as he responded to Joe Biden’s remarks that the US and France had charted a centuries-long course together for world freedoms:

We bear a duty to this shared history. As war returns to the European soil following Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and in light of multiple crises our nations and our societies face, we need to become brothers in arms once more.

This spirit of fraternity must enable us to build an agenda of ambition and hope because our two countries share the same faith in freedom, in democratic values, in empowerment through education and work, and in progress through science and knowledge.

Emmanuel Macron at the White House on Thursday.
Emmanuel Macron at the White House on Thursday. Photograph: Reuters

Macron went on to address issues including the climate emergency, attacks on democracy around the globe:

Our democracies on both sides of the ocean are being shaken by the same doubts as to our ability to be sufficiently strong and effective when it comes to the challenges we share, those of the climate through do politics and technology. They’re endowed in the face of relativism, hate speech [and] false information and today’s fears.

We’re united today by the same determination and the same strength of mind. Together we need to find a path to offer a future for our children, one of justice, prosperity and equality.

The two leaders are holding their bilateral meeting now, and we expect to hear from them again at about 11.45am ET.

Updated

Durbin: Republicans stalling on rail strike deal

Senate Democrats say the passage of a bill to avert a national rail strike is in Republicans’ hands, after the House passed legislation yesterday to prevent it.

The chamber needs to also approve the measure to send it to Joe Biden’s desk, and earlier it looked like Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent senator who caucuses with the Democrats, could be the one to derail its fast-track progress.

He wants a guaranteed seven paid sick days for rail workers, while the deal as it stands offers only one.

But on Thursday, Dick Durbin, senator for Illinois and the chamber’s No 2 Democrat, told CNN that it was Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell who appeared to be foot dragging on helping to schedule a vote:

I talked to [Senate majority leader] Chuck Schumer this morning about it and he’s still waiting for a sign from Senator McConnell that he’s ready for us to call this measure.

It takes bipartisanship to get to the measure, it takes bipartisanship to pass. So we can’t do it without help from the Republicans. The Democrats stand ready to back the president.

Read more:

It’s a bold gambit by the Americans, to meet the French in an arena over which they have long been masters par excellence: wine and cheese.

But such is Jill Biden’s sang-froid that she will offer America’s best to the French president, Emmanuel Macron, his wife, Brigitte Macron, and their entourage at a lavish White House dinner on Thursday – just one of the elaborate details and valuable gifts forming part of the diplomatic dance surrounding this state visit.

Jill Biden greets France's first lady Brigitte Macron at the White House on Thursday as Joe Biden looks on.
Jill Biden greets France's first lady Brigitte Macron at the White House on Thursday as Joe Biden looks on. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

As the Élysée Palace unveiled a list of gifts that Macron will offer his American counterpart, Joe Biden, including a luxurious Christofle cup, the US president’s wife revealed the setting and menu for the night’s gala dinner.

It will be served under a large tent in the gardens, on tables laden with candlesticks and flowers in the colors of the two countries.

Lobster will feature – 200 live shellfish have made their last trip, to Washington – along with beef, squash from the White House garden, and cake, among other delicacies.

But the first lady particularly insisted on serving American cheeses, including a blue cheese from north-western Oregon that was the first American product to win the world cheese championships, in 2019.

Read the full story:

Biden: 'US has no better partner than France'

Joe and Jill Biden have welcomed French president Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte to the White House for the first official state visit of the Biden administration.

Their meeting today, followed by a state dinner this evening, will cast a spotlight on the sometimes frosty recent relations between the US and one of its closest allies.

Biden was warm and fulsome in praise as he welcomed his French counterpart:

The United States could not ask for a better partner in its work than France.

For centuries, we’ve come together, charted a course toward a world of greater freedom, greater opportunity, greater dignity, and greater peace.

Macron was equally magnanimous, addressing the Bidens as “Dear Joe, and dear Jill”:

We’re both honored and moved to be with you at the White House, because our two nations are sisters in their fight for freedom.

Their bond was tested a year ago when Macron was blindsided by a security deal involving the US and UK that resulted in Australia tearing up a $90bn contract with France to buy nuclear submarines.

Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron stand for their respective countries’ national anthems at the White House on Thursday.
Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron stand for their respective countries’ national anthems at the White House on Thursday. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Biden sought to repair his broken personal and political relationship with Macron by apologizing in Rome last October, and admitting the US had been been “clumsy” in its handling of the episode. Exchanges since have suggested a thaw.

The Bidens greeted the Macrons with kisses after they emerged from their limousine. They shook hands with a line of dignitaries before posing for a photo op and listening to the countries’ national anthems before heading inside.

They will make further remarks following their talks at a press conference currently scheduled for 11.45am.

In her Wednesday briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre would not be drawn on the content of the discussions, but almost certain to be on the agenda are Russia’s war in Ukraine, inflation, the climate emergency, China’s growing influence on the world stage, and US-European relations. And probably also soccer’s World Cup, in which the US and French teams have both qualified for the knockout stage.

“France is our oldest ally. And the president looks forward to meeting with President Macron,” Jean-Pierre said.

She hinted the recently passed inflation reduction act would come up: “It presents significant opportunities for European firms, as well as benefits to EU energy security. And this is not a zero-sum game for us.

“We see a constructive path of engagement with the EU on this [but] I’m just not going to get ahead of what will be on the agenda in their conversation.”

Updated

Good morning, US politics followers, and welcome to Le Blog, so named to commemorate French president Emmanuel Macron’s official visit to Washington, and a full day of activities including a head-to-head with Joe Biden and a state dinner later with 400 guests.

The leaders will hold a bilateral meeting at 10am ET, and talk about it at a lunchtime press conference. Subjects on the agenda are likely to include Russia’s war in Ukraine, and business and political relations between the US, France and the European Union.

We’ll bring you comments from the two presidents when they speak later on.

Here’s what else we’re watching today:

  • The Senate will be debating a bill passed Wednesday in the House of Representatives seeking to avert a national rail strike, but fast-track approval remains in doubt following opposition from progressive Vermont senator Bernie Sanders over paid sick days.

  • Barack Obama heads to Georgia for a rally in support of incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock. The former president’s visit comes as Warnock’s Republican challenger in next week’s runoff election, Herschel Walker, faces new domestic violence allegations from an ex-girlfriend.

  • Hillary and Chelsea Clinton will host a summit on women’s rights in Little Rock, Arkansas.

  • Vice-president Kamala Harris and secretary of state Antony Blinken are hosting a luncheon for Macron at the state department.