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Reporter embarrasses Kamala Harris by exposing contradiction in Russia response: 'What leverage do you really have?'

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THOMAS KIENZLE/AFP via Getty Images

A reporter exposed the contradictory messaging of the White House on Sunday upon confronting Vice President Kamala Harris over the Biden administration's response to looming war in Eastern Europe.

Harris — whom President Joe Biden dispatched to Germany last week to address Russia's seeming impending invasion of Ukraine — claimed on Saturday that Russian President Vladimir Putin "has made his decision" to invade Ukraine.

But on Sunday, Harris also claimed the Biden administration is prepared to authorize crippling economic sanctions that she alleged would devastate the Russian economy. The measures, according to Harris, would deter Putin from invading Ukraine and triggering the biggest European war since World War II.

What happened?

So, which is it, Madam Vice President? Has Putin made his decision to go to war, or can the U.S. deter him? That is the contradiction a reporter exposed on Sunday during a press conference with Harris before she returned to the U.S.

"If you believe Putin has made up his mind, what leverage do you really have? Why not put those sanctions in place now?" the reporter asked.

Harris, however, failed to answer the question or address the glaring contradiction between her claims.

"The purpose of the sanctions has always been and continues to be deterrence," Harris responded. "But let’s also recognize the unique nature of the sanctions that we have outlined. These are some of the greatest sanctions, if not the strongest that we’ve ever issued, as I articulated yesterday. It is directed at institutions — in particular, financial institutions — and individuals, and it will exact absolute harm for the Russian economy, and their government."

"But if Putin has made up his mind, do you feel that this threat that has been looming is really going to deter him?" the reporter asked again.

"Absolutely," Harris responded before engaging in word salad.

"We strongly believe — and remember also that the sanctions are a product not only of our perspective as the United States, but a shared perspective among our allies. And the allied relationship is such that we have agreed that the deterrence effect of these sanctions is still a meaningful one, especially because — remember, also — we still sincerely hope that there is a diplomatic path out of this moment," Harris continued. "And within the context then of the fact that that window is still opening — although it is absolutely narrowing — but within the context of a diplomatic path still being open, the deterrence effect, we believe, has merit."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that if the U.S. truly believes a Russian invasion of his country is imminent, then the U.S. should enact the economic sanctions immediately, Politico noted. The White House has not explained why sanctions have yet to be placed on Russia.

Biden extended an olive branch to Putin on Sunday, offering to hold a diplomatic summit with the Russian president in hopes of staving off war. But Putin rejected Biden's offer.

Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence indicates that Russia is moving forward with plans to invade Ukraine, CBS News reported.

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