Biden, Obama warn of Trump dangers in star-studded L.A. fundraiser

President Biden and former president Barack Obama, along with first lady Jill Biden and a host of A-list Hollywood celebrities, gravely warned about the threat and unprecedented nature of a potential second Donald Trump term in a star-studded fundraiser on Saturday that the Biden campaign said raised more than $30 million.

In a discussion moderated by late-night host Jimmy Kimmel between Biden and Obama, Biden spoke in stark terms about the political violence Trump has signaled could erupt if he does not win the election.

“Institutions matter. What he did on January 6th, and now he’s literally saying if he doesn’t win there’ll be a bloodbath. It’s outrageous — what he’s talking about is outrageous,” Biden said.

Biden later added: “The idea that he’s actually threatened retribution. This is the United States of America. Did you ever think you’d ever, ever, ever hear anything like this?”

The fundraiser was hosted by Kimmel and Obama, as well as actors George Clooney and Julia Roberts. Actress and singer Barbra Streisand introduced Jill Biden, who issued some of her most direct attacks to date on Trump.

She described her husband as a man who “honors the rule of law instead of trying to bend it to his own will.”

“Or,” she continued, referring to Trump, “we can choose someone who wakes up every morning caring about one person and one person only — himself.”

The Biden campaign called Saturday’s event at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles the largest-ever Democratic fundraiser, eclipsing a March fundraiser at New York’s Radio City Music Hall that featured three living presidents — Biden, Obama and Bill Clinton — and that the campaign said raised more than $25 million.

The Hollywood fundraiser comes as polls show Biden and Trump are in an effectively deadlocked race whose dynamics both men have struggled to alter for months. Polls show that few voters want the rematch between two men who have each already served a term in the White House and run for president at least twice before.

Trump in recent weeks has closed a fundraising gap with Biden and seemed to capitalize on a historic verdict in which he was convicted on 34 counts of falsifying business records to conceal a hush money payment to an adult-film actress. Still, much of Trump’s fundraising must go to legal bills related to several pending cases against him.

While much of the discussion focused on Trump’s rhetoric and threats to democratic institutions, there were also moments of levity at Saturday’s fundraiser.

Obama, the first Black president, commented on Trump’s remark that he’s done more for Black people than any president since Abraham Lincoln. “One thing he did, for example, was make them feel even better about the first Black president,” Obama said.

Still, there were signs of dissent along with the display of Democratic unity. Police in riot gear stood outside the event as pro-Palestinian protesters lined the outside of the theater. Biden’s staunch support of Israel has caused political challenges, and he has been met by protesters at nearly every event since the war between Israel and Hamas began in October, complicating his ability to hold large public events.

Just weeks before the fundraiser, Clooney called a top White House adviser to complain about the president’s criticism of action by the International Criminal Court against Israeli leaders, a case his wife, Amal Clooney, had worked on. Clooney expressed concern about Biden’s denunciation of arrest warrants sought by ICC prosecutors for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, especially Biden’s use of the word “outrageous” to describe those moves. The ICC prosecutors also sought warrants for top Hamas leaders.

The actor in particular was upset about the administration’s initial openness to imposing sanctions on the ICC, because his wife might have been subject to the penalties. The White House later moved away from the idea of sanctioning the court.

Yet Saturday’s fundraiser stayed focused on the threat of Trump. Kimmel at one point asked Biden and Obama if the country had “Trump amnesia” — forgetting the chaos and consequences of Trump’s stint in the White House — describing it as “like a colonoscopy” that people know is there but want to forget.

“Remember the pandemic?” Biden said. “He said, ‘Just don’t worry. Just inject a little bleach,’” Biden said.

“It worked for me,” Kimmel replied.

Saturday’s fundraiser caps a busy stretch of travel for Biden, who flew directly to Los Angeles from Italy, where he attended the Group of Seven nations summit. Shortly before that, he was in France to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day. The president has also made several recent trips to Wilmington, Del., to support his son Hunter, who was convicted last week of lying on a federal gun form and unlawfully possessing a gun for 11 days.

Biden’s attention in the coming week will turn to preparing for his debate against Trump, scheduled for June 27. Both men are hoping to take advantage of the event to shake up the race and make a new impression on voters.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post