An Associated Press reporter on Monday criticized State Department spokesman Ned Price for suggesting that President Joe Biden was responsible for a policy that had begun under the Trump administration.
Price, highlighting a report sent to Congress, said that some 18 entities have engaged in “good faith efforts” to reduce their stake in Nord Stream 2, a controversial $ 11 billion gas pipeline project designed to transmit Russian natural gas to Germany.
Critics of the Kremlin have said the project would double the amount of natural gas imported from Russia. If completed, it would leave Europe more dependent on Russian energy than ever. The poisoning of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny has revitalized calls to abandon the project.
At Monday’s press conference, Price appeared to suggest the Biden administration’s efforts. The fact that the aforementioned entities have terminated their activities on the pipeline project, Price said, demonstrated that the strategy of Biden and Congress “has been working with good results.”
Associated Press reporter Matt Lee chimed in and told Price that all of this work had started under the Trump administration.
“You guys have only been in office for a month, right? Are you telling me that in the last four weeks these 18 companies suddenly decided to say, ‘Oh my God! Lee said. “You are taking credit for the things the previous administration did. Yes or no?”
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Price, remarkably nervous, said he was simply speaking on behalf of the State Department, held by the same people since before Biden took office.
The heated exchange came after the Biden administration on Friday added a layer of sanctions to a Russian vessel and the shipowner for their work on the gas pipeline project.
Senior Republican lawmakers criticized the measure as inappropriate, noting that the administration had not penalized any additional companies or individuals for working on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. They also said that the new penalties were redundant as they duplicate existing penalties that The Trump administration had imposed the pipelaying ship Fortuna and its owner KVT-RUS in January.
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The sanctions were announced in a report presented to Congress by the State Department late Friday, three days after the February 16 deadline for delivery.