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At Biden fundraiser, Hollywood and Democrats let Trump attacks fly

At Biden fundraiser, Hollywood and Democrats let Trump attacks fly
At Biden fundraiser, Hollywood and Democrats let Trump attacks fly

 


A Hollywood fundraiser Saturday night intended to bolster President Biden's war chest turned into a platform for some of the most concerted and harsh attacks yet on former President Donald J. Trump by the Biden campaign, like artists, Barack Obama and even Jill Biden. attacked Mr. Trump's ethics and his suitability to return to the White House.

Ms. Biden, after being introduced by Barbra Streisand, said the choice was between her husband, who respects the rule of law instead of trying to bend it to his will, and Mr. Trump, who wakes up every morning by caring about one person and one person only: himself.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly told us why he wants the White House to give itself absolute power, so as not to be held responsible for its criminal act, continued Ms. Biden. Her goal, she told the crowd, was to destroy the democratic guarantees that stood in her way.

Mr. Obama invoked Mr. Trump’s criminal convictions, something Mr. Biden mostly avoided doing as the crowd cheered.

We have the spectacle of the candidate from one of the two major parties sitting in court and being found guilty by a jury of his peers on 34 counts, Mr. Obama said. Listing a series of what he described as offenses committed by Mr. Trump, he noted that his organization was being sued for non-payment of taxes. Put aside all the other things he says

President Biden took his microphone: he paid nothing.

The tenor of the event in downtown Los Angeles was different from another star-studded fundraiser just three months ago at Radio City Music Hall. The change came after Mr. Trump was convicted by a New York jury on May 30 of 34 counts of falsifying business records, a verdict that produced a wave of contributions from his supporters who has narrowed the fundraising gap between the two candidates and has increased concerns among Democrats across the country, nowhere more so than in Los Angeles.

It also added a twist to a fairly standard Hollywood political event: Democratic candidates running to raise money from the heavily Democratic entertainment community.

George Clooney was there. So did Julia Roberts and Jimmy Kimmel, who asked Mr. Biden if the country was suffering from Trump amnesia, comparing these four years to a colonoscopy that people want to forget.

Remember the pandemic, Mr. Biden replied. He said don't worry, just squirt some bleach.

The event, held at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles, home of the annual Emmy Awards, raised at least $28 million, aides said, eclipsing the $26 million the president had raised three months ago during the Radio City Music fundraiser. Room.

The tone was set from the start, when Ms. Streisand introduced the first lady.

She's the neighbor everyone wishes they had, not the guy who suddenly flies an American flag upside down, Ms. Streisand said with laughs and a few groans, referring to the way Martha-Ann Alito, the wife of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., had displayed an upside-down American flag, a symbol associated with the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol in front of the couple's Virginia home.

The change in political context partly explains the different content of the evening. Another was Mr. Kimmel, who asked far more pointed and leading questions than Stephen Colbert, the late-night talk show host who questioned Mr. Biden, Mr. Obama and Bill Clinton at the event from Radio City Music Hall.

You said you were fighting to restore the soul of America, and lately it seems like we might need an exorcism, Mr. Kimmel said at the top of the show, turning to Mr. Biden . Is this why you visited the Pope?

Um, Mr. Biden said, laughing softly. Yeah.

When Mr. Kimmel mentioned the repeal of Roe v. Wade that Trump-appointed Supreme Court justices helped orchestrate, the public hissed. Don't whistle, vote! » said Mr. Obama.

Mr. Biden said the next president would likely have two other Supreme Court nominees, adding, referring to Mr. Trump, that if he is re-elected, he will nominate two more who will wave upside-down flags, is He stopped.

The Supreme Court has never been more lopsided than it is today, Mr. Biden said.

He reminded the audience of the events of January 6 and that Mr. Trump has recently used apocalyptic terms like bloodshed and retribution.

Outside the theater complex on Olympic Boulevard, a line of black-clad police officers in helmets stood guard while about 100 demonstrators wearing T-shirts reading Ceasefire Now and carrying signs saying “Stop the killings in Gaza” shouted to arriving guests. There's blood on your hands! they said.

People will fund Biden's reelection campaign while he arms Israel and funds genocide against the Palestinian people, said one of the protesters, Jodie Evans, 70, a political activist and documentary producer who lives in the neighborhood of Venice. Los Angeles.

The event came amid unease about Mr. Biden's strengths as a candidate against Mr. Trump, particularly after the former president's recent surge in fundraising.

Hearing about the money made us nervous, said David Mandel, the television showrunner who produced Veep and is a prominent supporter of the Biden campaign. But it wasn't like we were really confident and it made us nervous. We have been nervous for eight years. So this is not new.

Mr. Mandel took issue with comparisons between business leaders writing checks to Mr. Trump and what was presented Saturday by the wealthy entertainment industry.

Let me tell you what Julia Roberts, Jimmy Kimmel and Mark Hamill don't do, he said. They are not asking Joe Biden to lower the corporate tax rate. They are not asking Joe Biden to lower their personal income tax rate.

But for all his financial success, the money raised set a record for a Democratic fundraising event, Mr Biden's campaign said the event was a reminder of the risks for politicians when they try to mix Washington and Hollywood.

Mr. Biden shared the stage with Mr. Clooney, the actor who had filed a complaint with a White House official about the president's criticism of the International Criminal Court.

The court decided to seek an arrest warrant against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; his Minister of Defense; and three Hamas leaders for their illegal activities in a war in Gaza that resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians. Mr. Clooney's wife, Amal Clooney, is a human rights lawyer who served on an advisory committee that helped lead the investigation.

Mr. Biden, who left a meeting of world leaders in Italy on Friday, skipping a farewell dinner to cross 10 time zones to Los Angeles, made no mention of the complaints when he thanked his supporters during of his speech.

The room was filled with familiar faces from the entertainment world, led by Jeffrey Katzenberg, the Hollywood producer who has become one of Mr. Biden's top behind-the-scenes advisers and is chairing his 2024 campaign.

It was an evening of meetings between Hollywood royalty and Democratic leaders from Washington to Sacramento. Bryan Lourd and Richard Lovett, who run the Creative Artists Agency, one of the city's most powerful talent agencies, posed for photos with Mr. Clooney and Ms. Roberts. Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, and Karen Bass, Mayor of Los Angeles, were also in attendance.

But the stakes were arguably higher here than they had been in New York. Republicans raised $50.5 million at a fundraiser in Palm Beach, Fla., in April, then another $141 million in May. On Saturday night, tickets ranged from $250 per seat to $500,000 for a VIP package.

Chad Griffin, a Hollywood-based Democratic consultant and member of the party's national finance committee, said the entertainment community expected this to be the most expensive election cycle in history, given the Mr. Trump’s fundraising success and political support.

I have never seen this city more motivated and engaged in a presidential election,” said Mr. Griffin, who began his political career working in the Clinton White House. And I think that's because there's a clear understanding of what's at stake and what it will take to win in November.

Reid J. Epstein, Brooks Barnes and George Johnston contributed reporting.

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