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WASHINGTON—When President Biden met with congressional leaders in the West Wing in January to negotiate a Ukraine funding deal, he spoke so softly at times that some participants struggled to hear him, according to five people familiar with the meeting. He read from notes to make obvious points, paused for extended periods and sometimes closed his eyes for so long that some in the room wondered whether he had tuned out.

In a February one-on-one chat in the Oval Office with House Speaker Mike Johnson, the president said a recent policy change by his administration that jeopardizes some big energy projects was just a study, according to six people told at the time about what Johnson said had happened. Johnson worried the president’s memory had slipped about the details of his own policy.

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