ABC's Jake Tapper has a stunning report out of Seoul, South Korea this morning. According to him, President Obama was caught on a hot mic telling outgoing Russian President Dmitri Medvedev that if given "space," he'll have more flexibility "after my election."
Here's how Tapper puts it:
At the tail end of his 90 minute meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev Monday, President Obama said that he would have “more flexibility” to deal with controversial issues such as missile defense, but incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to give him “space.”
The exchange was picked up by microphones as reporters were let into the room for remarks by the two leaders.
And here's the exchange:
President Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.
President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…
President Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.
President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.
You can hear the comments below:
A senior administration official tried to brush it aside in a statement to ABC: “this is a political year in which the Russians just had an election, we’re about to have a presidential and congressional elections — this is not the kind of year in which we’re going to resolve incredibly complicated issue like this. So there’s an advantage to pulling back and letting the technical experts work on this as the president has been saying.”
Fox News has the official statement from the White House:
Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said the U.S. is "committed" to implementing the missile defense system, "which we've repeatedly said is not aimed at Russia."
"However, given the longstanding difference between the U.S. and Russia on this issue, it will take time and technical work before we can try to reach an agreement," he said in a statement.
"Since 2012 is an election year in both countries, with an election and leadership transition in Russia and an election in the United States, it is clearly not a year in which we are going to achieve a breakthrough. Therefore, President Obama and President Medvedev agreed that it was best to instruct our technical experts to do the work of better understanding our respective positions, providing space for continued discussions on missile defense cooperation going forward."
This isn't the first time Obama has been caught on a hot mic. In November he was overheard blasting Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to French President Sarkozy. Additionally, Vice President Joe Biden was heard telling Obama the health care bill was a "big fu**ing deal" after that legislation passed.
The latter was just turned into a t-shirt by the Obama campaign.