Clooney and Roberts help Biden raise $30 million-plus at a star-studded Hollywood gala

Some of Hollywood’s brightest stars headlined a fundraiser for President Joe Biden in Los Angeles that took in a record $30 million-plus for a Democratic candidate, according to his campaign

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Some of Hollywood's brightest stars headlined a fundraiser for President Joe Biden that took in a record $30 million-plus for a Democratic candidate, according to his campaign, in hopes of energizing would-be supporters for a White House contest they said may rank among the most consequential in U.S. history.

George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Barbra Streisand were among those who took the stage at the 7,100-seat Peacock Theater in Los Angeles on Saturday night. Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel interviewed Biden and former President Barack Obama, who both stressed the need to defeat former President Donald Trump in a race that's expected to be exceedingly close.

During more than half an hour of discussion, Kimmel asked if the country was suffering from amnesia about the presumptive Republican nominee, to which Biden responded, “all we gotta do is remember what it was like" when Trump was in the White House.

Luminaries from the entertainment world have increasingly lined up to help Biden's campaign, and just how important the event was to his reelection bid could be seen in Biden's decision to fly through the night across nine time zones, from the G7 summit in southern Italy to Southern California, to attend.

He also missed a summit in Switzerland about ways to end Russia's war in Ukraine, instead dispatching Vice President Kamala Harris who made a whirlwind trip of her own to represent the United States there, a stark reminder of the delicate balance between geopolitics and Biden's bid to win a second term.

Further laying bare the political implications were police in riot gear outside the theater. A group of protesters angry about the Biden's administration's handling of Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza demonstrated nearby.

The fundraiser included singing by Jack Black and Sheryl Lee Ralph, and actors Kathryn Hahn and Jason Bateman introduced Kimmel, who himself introduced Biden and Obama. The comedian deadpanned, “I was told I was getting introduced by Batman, not Bateman.”

But he quickly pivoted to far more serious topics, saying that “so much is at stake in this election” and listing women’s rights, health care and noting that “even the ballot is on the ballot” in a reference to the Biden administration's calls to expand voting rights.

Kimmel asked the president what he was most proud of accomplishing, and Biden said he thought the administration’s approach to the economy “is working.”

“We have the strongest economy in the world today,” Biden said, adding “we try to give ordinary people an even chance.”

Trump spent Saturday campaigning in Detroit and criticized Biden's handling of the economy and inflation. The president was fundraising "with out-of-touch elitist Hollywood celebrities," Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt said.

But Biden told the crowd in California that “we passed every major piece of legislation we attempted to get done." And Obama expressed admiration for sweeping legislation on health care, public works, the environment, technology manufacturing, gun safety and other major initiatives that the administration of his former vice president has overseen.

“What we’re seeing now is a byproduct of in 2016. There were a whole bunch of folks who, for whatever reason, sat out," said Obama, who, like Biden wore a dark suit and a white shirt open at the collar.

Obama, speaking about the Supreme Court, added that "hopefully we have learned our lesson, because these elections matter in very concrete ways.”

Trump nominated three justices who helped overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision guaranteeing a constitutional right to an abortion. The audience expressed its displeasure at the mention of Roe, to which Obama responded, “don't hiss, vote.” That was a play on his common refrain prioritizing voting over booing.

Biden said the person elected president in November could get the chance to nominate two new justices, though a second Biden term probably wouldn't drastically overhaul a court given its current 6-3 conservative majority.

He also suggested if Trump wins back the White House, “one of the scariest parts" was the Supreme Court and how the high court has "never been this far out of step.”

Biden also referenced reports that an upside-down flag, a symbol associated with Trump's false claims of election fraud, was flown outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in January 2021. He worried Saturday that, if Trump is reelected, "He's going to appoint two more who fly their flags upside down."

Kimmel offered his special brand of humor throughout the night. At one point he asked how can a president get back at a talk-show host who makes fun of him on TV every night.

“Ever hear of Delta Force?” Biden responded, referring to the Army special operations unit.

Earlier in the program, Kimmel noted Biden's campaign promise to restore the soul of America and said "lately it seems we might need an exorcism." Then he asked Biden, "Is that why you visited the pope?" Biden and Pope Francis met in Italy on Friday.

The amount raised outpaced the then-record $26 million from Biden's fundraiser in March at Radio City Music Hall in New York that featured late-night host Stephen Colbert interviewing Biden, Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

Biden held an early lead in the campaign money race against Trump, but the former president has gained ground since he formally locked up the Republican nomination.

Trump outpaced Biden's New York event by raking in $50.5 million at an April gathering of major donors at the Florida home of billionaire investor John Paulson. The former president's campaign and the Republican National Committee announced they raised a whopping $141 million in May, padded by tens of millions of dollars in contributions that flowed in after Trump's guilty verdict in his criminal hush money trial.

That post-conviction bump came after Trump and the Republican Party announced collecting $76 million in April, far exceeding Biden and the Democrats' $51 million for the month.

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Weissert reported from Washington.

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