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President Biden, Barack Obama Rip Donald Trump During L.A. Fundraiser

President Biden, Barack Obama Rip Donald Trump During L.A. Fundraiser

White House residents and Hollywood megastars shared the stage inside Los Angeles’ Peacock Theater on Saturday night for what turned out to be a record-setting Democratic fundraising haul as President Biden‘s reelection campaign netted a historic $28 million from the one-night-only event.

But even with all that cash and the glamour of A-list headliners George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jimmy Kimmel (who moderated a 40-minute chat with Biden and former President Barack Obama), the shadow of Biden’s Republican opponent, Donald Trump, loomed large over L.A. Live. During the conversation, the trio took turns ripping Trump’s questionable track record, his history of lying to the American people, a freshly stamped criminal record with 34 felonies and a recent threat of bloodshed and retribution should he come out victorious in the November election.

“I could have done nothing and done better than him,” Biden said at the top of the conversation, during which much attention was paid to the incumbent’s victories in passing legislation, boosting the economy, creating jobs and erasing millions of student loan debt. “We’re trying to give ordinary people a chance, just a chance.”

Obama was the one who took aim at Trump’s felony convictions. “Well, look, part of what has happened in the last several years is we’ve normalized behavior that used to be disqualified,” he said. “The other spectacle of the nominee of one of the two major parties, which is sitting in court and being convicted by a jury of his peers on 34 counts. You have his foundation, it’s not allowed to operate because it was engaging in monkey business and not actually philanthropic. You had this organization being prosecuted for not paying taxes, set aside all the other stuff. … There was a time when we had certain core values that we agreed with that we believe in basic honesty. We believed in paying your taxes. We believed in making sure that we didn’t make fun of [prisoners of war], that we did not try to politicize our military, that we respected the ballot.”

Obama went on to say that Biden has stood for many of the values and he continues to do so. He also complimented the work that his one-time vice president has done during his tenure in the White House. “At its best, the presidency is a relay race. You take the baton and you run the race and then hand it to your successor. I take great pride in what the Biden administration has accomplished,” he said. “It’s a reminder that we don’t have to just vote against something in this election. We have so many things to worry about and there’s a whole agenda that we should be concerned about, but we can take pride in affirming the extraordinary work that Joe has done.”

Kimmel, who has long traded insults with Trump and used him as a punchline repeatedly everywhere from his late-night show to the Oscar stage, wasted no time Saturday in taking jabs at the “stable genius.” And he pulled no punches.

Upon taking the stage — Kimmel walked out to a standing ovation following a comedic introduction from Jason Bateman and Kathryn Hahn who called him “Jimmy fucking Kimmel” — the veteran late-night host praised Biden’s three years in office. He also paid tribute to the thousands of people who purchased tickets to attend the fundraiser, which cost anywhere from $250 for a seat far from the stage to $500,000 for a ticket package that included prime seats, photos with both presidents and a VIP afterparty.

“I want to take a moment to absorb the fact, if you will, that we are in a room full of people who love this country and are spending their time and hard-earned money,” he said, adding that there’s a lot on the line in the fight for equal rights, climate change, universal healthcare “and good old fashioned Democracy.”

He then said, “How incredible is that years from now we’ll be able to tell our grandchildren that we saw two presidents of the United States on the same stage as Kung Fu Panda?” The quip was in reference to Jack Black, who also appeared on stage in colorful overalls. In addition to Biden, Obama, Kimmel, Roberts and Clooney, the program also featured remarks from First Lady Jill Biden, longtime Democratic supporter Barbra Streisand, Jason Bateman and Kathryn Hahn. Sheryl Lee Ralph, who won an Emmy on the same Peacock Theater stage for her work in Abbott Elementary, was among the lineup of performers.

In the building were Jeffrey Katzenberg, Paul Anka, Kathy Griffin, David Mandel, CAA power players Bryan Lourd and Richard Lovett, Keegan-Michael Key, and a long list of California politicos including Governor Gavin Newsom and L.A. Mayor Karen Bass, among many others. (The Biden family was also well represented with Hunter and Ashley Biden, and grandchildren Naomi and Maisy Biden, among others.)

But back to Trump. Before welcoming Biden and Obama to the stage, Kimmel played a highlight reel that he said was cut together by his friends at Jimmy Kimmel Live!. It was a mashup of some of Trump’s falsehoods cut together with facts to the contrary. “Is it satisfying to see that video of how wrong Orange Julius Caesar was?” Kimmel asked the presidents.

Kimmel also asked Obama what went through his mind when he heard Trump claim that he’s done more for Black people than any president since Abraham Lincoln? (For the record, Kimmel jokingly referred to Trump as “President Kanye West,” one of his many nicknames for the 45th president.) Obama said he doesn’t consider it, adding, “Although one thing he did, for example, for Black people was make them feel even better about the first Black president.”

One of the more serious segments of the conversation came as the trio turned their attention to the Supreme Court with Biden underlining the importance of the upcoming election in shaping the future of the nation’s highest ruling body. “The next president is likely to have two new Supreme Court nominees. Two more. [Trump’s] already appointed two that have been very negative in terms of rights of individuals,” he said, referencing to Trump picks Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanagh and Amy Coney Barrett and nodding to the controversial decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Streisand took more time in the spotlight than Clooney and Roberts, and she focused her attention on Dr. Jill Biden, whom she introduced. “She became the first First Lady to have a separate paying career outside the White House with a job as a community college professor. A proud English teacher, and as she has said herself, teaching isn’t what I do it’s what I am. Although her title may be Dr. Jill Biden, to her students she is Dr. B, because they see what is at her core, which is her warmth,” Streisand explained.

She added: “And that caring and compassion serves her as a North Star, guiding her on the policy issues she’s made her own. Her support of military families, her participation in the moonshot program to end cancer as we know it. And her newest cause, leading the White House initiative on women’s health research.” 

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Before introducing Dr. Biden, Streisand called her “the ultimate multi-hyphenate,” adding that she’s “the rock of the family in addition to being a trusted voice for her husband and a strong messenger for the campaign.”

In her remarks, Dr. Biden praised the Hollywood talent who turned out. “I have to say it’s humbling to have this group of incredible artists and advocates stand beside us in this election. And to all of you thank you for your generous support.” She, too, also took aim at Trump. She said there’s so much at stake in the forthcoming election because it’s “about something bigger — character.”

“We have a choice to make. Joe, a man who has dedicated his life to serving his community. Who honors the rule of law instead of trying to bend it to his own will, and rallies the world to fight for democracy and freedom. A president who wakes up every morning thinking about how he can make the lives of Americans better,” she explained. “Or, we can choose someone who wakes up every morning caring about one person and one person only — himself. Trump has told us again and again why he wants the White House. To give himself absolute power. To not be held accountable for his criminal actions. … To destroy the Democratic safeguards that stand in his way.”

Due to that threat, Dr. Biden said supporters “have to work harder than we’ve ever worked before. And when we do we’ll wake up on that Wednesday in November proud that we did everything we could to reelect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

Saturday’s fundraiser came on the heels of a March event on the opposite coast. Held at Madison Square Garden in New York City, that event raised $26 million and featured Biden and Obama along with former President Bill Clinton in conversation with Stephen Colbert. And like the New York installment, L.A.’s fundraiser faced the threat of protests from pro-Palestinian supporters. Hundreds of protesters lined the blocks around Peacock Theater and adjacent JW Marriott attempting to block the flow of traffic into the fundraiser.

Shortly after 5 p.m. PT, swarms of protesters, seen in a post shared on X (formerly Twitter), were wearing shirts that read “Cease Fire Now” and “Not in Our Name,” while one woman hoisted a large pink sign that read “Stop Killing Palestinians” amid the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. According to a LAPD representative, no arrests were made and the showing didn’t appear to block any ticketed guests from entering the venue though the protesters waited several hours and were stationed at the exits shouting at guests as they exited. “Shame on you,” they were heard shouting on Figueroa Avenue. “Shame!”

More to come.

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