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On European trip, Biden keeps benefitting from Trump's lowered bar

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
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WASHINGTON — President Biden’s meeting Wednesday with Russia’s Vladimir Putin features high stakes and low expectations, NBC’s Shannon Pettypiece writes.

“The lack of expected results is in sharp contrast to the long list of U.S. complaints: recent ransomware attacks on critical U.S. infrastructure, election interference, increasing aggression toward Ukraine and Putin's crackdowns on political opposition,” Pettypiece says.

But here’s one thing tomorrow’s meeting in Geneva won’t be — a replay of Donald Trump’s press conference with Putin in Helsinki.

In that joint appearance three years ago, Trump said both countries were responsible for deteriorating relations. “I think the United States has been foolish. I think we have all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time frankly before I got to office. I think we’re all to blame.”

He accepted Putin’s denial that Russia didn’t interfere in the 2016 election, contrary to what the U.S. intelligence community concluded. “So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that president Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

And Trump continued to engage in conspiracy theories about the ’16 election. “What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They’re missing. Where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? 33,000 emails gone — just gone.”

All of it with Putin sharing the same stage with Trump.

On his trip through Europe over the past week, President Biden has benefitted from the comparisons with Trump. (And unlike Trump three years ago, Biden will be holding a solo news conference after his meeting with Putin.)

But as new presidents soon find out, those kinds of comparisons only get you so far.

And you start getting judged by more than the previous president you replaced.

How Biden prepared for his summit with Putin

Days before departing the U.S. for Europe, President Biden gathered in the Roosevelt Room at the White House for a prep session with a group of outside Russia experts — including officials who worked under former President Trump — to be briefed for his high-stakes summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, NBC’s Peter Alexander reports.

Among Mr. Biden’s briefers, per Alexander: two of President Obama’s former Russian ambassadors, Michael McFaul and John Tefft; former National Security Council official Fiona Hill, who served under former Presidents Trump, Obama and George W. Bush; and Rose Gottemoeller, an arms control expert, the chief negotiator on the New START treaty, who now works at Stanford University and formerly served as deputy secretary general of NATO.

Axios first reported the news.

Left says no to bipartisan infrastructure deal

“Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a member of the Senate Democrats' leadership team, came out against a bipartisan agreement Monday night after meeting with a bipartisan group of 10 senators, per NBC News.

“‘I wouldn't vote for it,’ Sanders told reporters. ‘The bottom line is there are a lot of needs facing this country. Now is the time to address those needs, and it has to be paid for in a progressive way, given the fact that we have massive income and wealth inequality in America.’”

More: “Democratic Sens. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Jeff Merkley of Oregon have insisted that any deal must include action on climate change. They plan to hold a news conference Tuesday to call on lawmakers to include substantive climate action in the proposal.”

Importantly, however, Senate Democrats still don’t have the votes to go it alone, either.

“Some Democrats have tried to pressure their leadership to abandon bipartisan talks and push through a partisan bill, instead, but there's no guarantee that there are 50 Democratic votes for that tactic,” NBC News adds.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

53-44: The Senate vote to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson — widely seen as a potential Supreme Court pick — to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

33,630,699: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 14,316 more than yesterday morning.)

603,510: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 201 more than yesterday morning.)

310,645,827: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S.

40.2 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per NBC News.

54.4 percent: The share of all American adults over 18 who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

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ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The White House is unveiling a new plan to target domestic terrorism.

What exactly happened yesterday with Ukraine and NATO?

Some Democrats are now saying they’ll actively oppose an infrastructure compromise that guts progressives’ top priorities.

Both Marjorie Taylor Greene and Ilhan Omar face censure resolutions this week. (Greene apologized yesterday for some of her comments about the Holocaust — but not about comparing Democrats to Nazis.)

Overlapping efforts by key Biden advisor Steve Ricchetti and his lobbyist brother may be testing the limits of the president’s promise to restore transparent ethics to the White House.

New emails show how Trump tried to pressure his incoming attorney general to investigate baseless claims of voter fraud.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is pushing Biden to restore environmental protections to three national monuments.

Don’t miss this piece from Tyler Kingkade, Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins on how conservative activism around critical race theory has created new tensions in school districts around the country.