President Biden on Friday told reporters he wouldn’t take their questions because they would only press him about Russian aggression in Ukraine.
At a White House event to promote Intel Corp. investing $20 billion in two semiconductor plants outside of Columbus, Ohio, Mr. Biden told reporters he only wanted to talk about computer chips.
The White House gathering came just hours after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had finished up 90 minutes of direct talks on the crisis in Geneva Friday morning.
Intel Chief Executive Pat Gelsinger and Ohio Sens. Rob Portman, a Republican, and Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, attended the event in Washington. All three are scheduled to attend a second announcement in Columbus later Friday.
“The reason we don’t have any time for questions now is these guys got to get on a plane and go out and do a major announcement in Ohio,” Mr. Biden said. “And you guys will ask me all about Russia and not about anything having to do with chips.”
Mr. Biden then fielded one reporters’ question about domestic chip manufacturing before walking away. Reporters continued to shout a variety of questions about Russia, including whether he plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The president’s comments follow his widely panned press conference earlier this week in which he sparked confusion and concern on both sides of the Atlantic about U.S. policy in the event of Russian military action and the unity of NATO allies in confronting the Kremlin.
During the press conference, Mr. Biden stunned lawmakers and international allies by saying a “minor incursion” into Ukraine by Russia would result in lesser consequences.
The gaffe sent the White House into cleanup mode Thursday and resulted in a strong backlash from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations,” Mr. Zelenskyy said on Twitter. “Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from loved ones. I say this as the president of a great power.”
Immediately after the conclusion of Wednesday’s press conference, White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement clarifying Mr. Biden’s remarks.
Her cleanup duty continued into Thursday when she made a rare appearance on Fox News in the morning, followed by CNN in the afternoon to spell out the president’s positions. Ms. Psaki also issued a second statement.
Emily Horne, spokesperson for the National Security Council, posted a tweet emphasizing that Mr. Biden was distinguishing between military and non-military actions such as a cyberattack or an intelligence operation.
Mr. Biden on Thursday took time away from an unrelated event at the White House to assure allies that he wouldn’t allow a “minor incursion.”
“I’ve been absolutely clear with President Putin,” Mr. Biden told reporters. “He has no misunderstanding. If any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion.
“Let there be no doubt at all that if Putin makes this choice, Russia will pay a heavy price,” said Mr. Biden, noting there was also the potential for a cyberattack or paramilitary action by Russia that would require a coordinated response from the U.S. and its allies.