U.S. President Joe Biden walks after arriving on Marine One from a trip to Ohio at the White House in Washington, February 17, 2022.
Leah Millis | Reuters
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden abruptly canceled plans on Sunday to go to his home in Delaware for the holiday following a two-hour meeting with his national security team to discuss the Russian threat to Ukraine.
The rare Sunday National Security Council meeting began around noon and lasted a little over two hours, according to reporters who watched the attendees arrive and then depart the White House compound.
Biden’s planned trip home to Wilmington was also a last-minute addition to the president’s schedule, announced by the White House press office while the Russia-Ukraine crisis meeting was underway in the Situation Room.
Shortly after the NSC meeting ended, the White House announced Biden’s trip was off.
It’s unusual for an American president’s travel plans to change this quickly, especially when they involve the president leaving the White House, as Sunday’s did.
According to a statement from the White House, the president “had a family-related issue that was going to take him to Wilmington, DE, tonight but he will no longer be going and will remain in Washington, DC tonight.”
A White House photo of the NSC meeting shows Biden flanked by White House aides and members of his Cabinet.
After the NSC meeting, Biden spoke by phone with French President Emmanuel Macron. According to the White House, the call lasted 15 minutes, shorter than usual for a leader-to-leader call.
Macron has emerged as a key figure in the diplomatic scramble this weekend to find a last-minute way to avert a war. This weekend alone, Macron’s office said he spoke to Biden, Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Biden’s movements have taken on a new significance in recent days after he said Friday that he believed Putin had decided to carry out an attack on Ukraine “in the coming days.”
“We have reason to believe the Russian forces are planning and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week, in the coming days,” Biden said during an address to the nation that was his second of the week. “We believe that they will target Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million innocent people.”
Revealing information like this about an adversary’s battle plans is unusual, and Biden’s prediction sent shockwaves around the world.
Russia currently has 190,000 troops deployed on Ukraine’s northern and eastern border — nearly half of the nation’s military.
Biden’s prediction about Russia and Ukraine was based on intercepted intelligence that revealed Russian generals have already been given orders to mobilize and move forward for an invasion.
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