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The Latest: Biden news conference is key event as he faces calls to step aside

First lady Jill Biden speaks at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, Wednesday, July 10, 2024, during an event with spouses of NATO leaders as part of the NATO Summit. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Original Publication Date July 11, 2024 - 8:21 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden held a news conference Thursday evening, the key event in a monumental week for his campaign as he fends off calls for him to step aside as the party’s presumptive nominee. His big moment comes on the last day of the NATO summit.

After a dismal debate performance, Biden's candidacy is still under question. The first Senate Democrat, Peter Welch of Vermont, and over a dozen House Democrats have publicly called for Biden to end his campaign.

One of the staunchest supporters in the president's corner has been his wife Jill Biden. As she tries to help her husband salvage his campaign she's also coming under new scrutiny from critics who’ve cast her as a power-hungry wife pushing her 81-year-old husband to run again.

Follow the AP’s Election-2024 coverage at: https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024

Follow the AP’s coverage of the NATO Summit: https://apnews.com/hub/nato

The Latest:

After press conference, another Democratic lawmaker says he hopes Biden will end his campaign

Another House Democrat, freshman Rep. Eric Sorensen of Illinois, said following the press conference that he was “hopeful” the president would step aside.

Sorensen said in 2020 Biden ran with the purpose of “putting country over party. Today, I am asking him to do that again.”

Other representatives from across the country earlier Thursday called on the president to end his reelection campaign. In total, over a dozen House Democrats have said they hope Biden will step aside.

Another House Democrat urges Biden to withdraw from campaign

Rep. Scott Peters of California also called on the president to abandon his bid for reelection.

Peters said in a statement after Biden's news conference that Democrats are on a “losing course.”

“My conscience requires me to speak up and put loyalty to the country and to democracy ahead of my great affection for, and loyalty to, the President and those around him,” he said.

Biden discusses frustrations with Israel and also rising hopes for cease-fire

President Joe Biden acknowledged disappointments, missteps and frustrations with Israel’s hard-right government but also pointed to increasing hopes of a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war, which has devastated Gaza’s people.

Speaking in a much-watched news conference at the site of the just ended NATO summit, the president called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government the most conservative Israeli administration he has experienced and said he urged that country's leaders not to follow the example that the U.S. set against al-Qaida and other extremist militant groups.

“Don’t think that’s what you should be doing, doubling down,” he said he told them.

Biden said he had been “disappointed” that his order for the U.S. military to build a sea pier to bring aid to Gaza, along with some other efforts, “have not succeeded as well.”

But Biden said Israel and Hamas have now agreed to the broad terms of a deal to pause fighting and free hostages. Mediators are working on gaps in agreement, he said.

Another House Democrat calls for Biden to end his reelection bid

Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said he hopes Biden will step away from the campaign.

Himes said in a post on the social platform X immediately after the president's news conference that it has been “the honor of my career” to work with Biden, but “the 2024 campaign will define the future of American democracy, and we must put forth the strongest candidate possible to confront the threat posed by Trump’s promised MAGA authoritarianism.”

Himes said he no longer believes that person is Joe Biden “and I hope that, as he has throughout a lifetime of public service, he will continue to put our nation first, and as he promised, make way for a new generation of leaders.”

More than a dozen House Democrats have now called for Biden to leave the campaign. Peter Welch of Vermont is the only Democratic senator to say he should step aside.

Biden bats away questions about age and fitness during lengthy solo news conference

Biden has wrapped up a nearly hourlong news conference in which he batted away questions about his age and fitness for office, while defending his record.

The president opened with an eight-minute statement, largely about the NATO summit he hosted in Washington, before taking reporters’ questions.

Biden called on reporters from 10 news organizations. He was asked about Democrats calling on him to drop his reelection bid, Vice President Kamala Harris and foreign policy.

Biden says won't leave the presidential race as long as he has a chance to win

The president insisted that he has no plans to drop out to make room for Vice President Kamala Harris or anyone else.

Asked if he would considering bowing out before November if shown data that Harris could perform better against Trump, Biden responded, “No, unless they came back and said, ‘There’s no way you can win.’”

“No one’s saying that,” Biden said. “No poll says that.”

He conceded that there are probably other candidates “who can beat Trump” but pointed to his campaign’s strong fundraising and operations in battleground states, noting that anyone other than him would have “to start from scratch.”

Democratic governors’ gathering winds down

None of the nine Democratic governors present at the National Governors Association conference remained around a TV watching as Biden’s news conference entered its final stretch.

Only a handful of party staffers were still nearby as the event wound down. The rest of the group left to mingle in the courtyard of the Salt Lake City hotel.

Biden again says he doesn't need to undergo cognitive testing

Pressed about if he would undergo cognitive testing, Biden reiterated that his job as president is proof of his mental acuity.

The president said he took three “significant and intense neurological exams” done by a neurologist, most recently in February. He added that he is “tested every single day” as he tackles the challenges of the White House.

Biden said that if his doctors say they “think I should have a neurological exam again, I’ll do it,” but “no one’s suggesting that to me now.”

Biden says he is determined to seek reelection

The president is reiterating his determination to run for reelection, despite the growing number of Democratic lawmakers and others who are calling for him to step aside.

“I think it’s important that I allay fears,” he said, referring to campaign appearances on Friday in Detroit and next week in Texas and Nevada.

“I gotta finish this job,” he said. “I gotta finish this job, because there’s so much at stake.”

Democratic Governors watch news conference during gathering

Some Democratic governors are watching the president’s press conference in a private viewing during a meeting of the National Governors Association.

A couple of groans could be heard as Hawaii Gov. Josh Green stepped outside during the news conference. It wasn’t immediately clear what they were responding to.

Green told The Associated Press that he supports the president’s choice to run.

“My admiration and love for the president is not going to wane no matter how many ‘moments’ he has,” Green said. The governor said the state loves him because of what he did to help after the Maui fire.

Questions shift to foreign policy

Biden’s news conference has shifted largely from questions about whether he’s up to continuing his reelection campaign to foreign policy.

“There isn’t any world leader I’m not prepared to deal with,” the president said.

He also vowed to maintain a hard line against Russian President Vladimir Putin: “If we allow Russia to succeed in Ukraine, they’re not stopping in Ukraine.”

Journalists tackle Biden health issue head-on

Journalists at Biden’s news conference charged from the gate with questions about his health, showing no hesitation at tackling the issue head-on.

The first five questioners all asked something about his health — some by itself, some embedded in questions about other things.

Finally, 15 minutes in, a reporter — a non-American — asked about European concerns if Donald Trump were to resume the presidency.

For his part, Biden answered some of the health questions emphatically but, on others, shifted the answers to focusing on the economy, the success of the NATO conference and other non-health-related topics.

Trump weighs in live on Biden’s news conference

The presumptive GOP presidential nominee posted on his social media network a video clip of when Biden said “Vice President Trump.”

Trump added sarcastically at the end: “Great job, Joe!”

Biden tries to calm those worried he’ll have another ‘bad night’

Biden said the best way to reassure anyone who is concerned about him having another “bad night” is “the way I assure myself and that is, ‘Am I getting the job done.’”

The president said “there’s no indication yet” that he’s slowing down on that front.

Biden had explained his poor debate performance against Trump last month by saying he had a “bad night.”

Biden says he never suggested he needs an earlier bedtime

Biden is denying that he previously said he needs to cut back on his schedule to get to bed by 8 p.m.

The president told reporters that, in previous conversations, what he meant was “it’d be smarter to pace myself a little bit.”

He suggested that working from early in the morning until near midnight was probably not a great idea and suggested that evening fundraisers for his reelection campaign could begin an hour or two earlier going forward.

Biden also vowed that, ahead of his second debate with Trump in September, “I’m not going to be traveling 15 time zones.”

“Pace myself. Pace myself,” he said.

Biden responds defensively to reporter asking about the drama over his political fate

Asked whether the focus on his flubs and the pressure to drop out of the race has become damaging for the United States, Biden pushed back on the question.

“Have you seen a more successful conference?” he asked. “What do you think?”

Biden did not address the question, but he asserted that the just-concluded NATO summit was “the most successful conference I attended in a long time.”

Biden insists he’s not in presidential race ‘for my legacy,’ says he’s running to ‘complete the job I started’

Biden was asked how it might hurt his place in the history books if he were to keep running and lose to Trump in November — but insisted he’s not concerned. Instead, he said, his focus is continuing four more years of policies to grow the economy and help the middle class.

“I’m not in this for my legacy,” Biden said. “I’m in this to complete the job I started.”

Biden’s first question is on shrinking support from many fellow Democrats

The first question of Biden’s press conference was about him losing support among many of his fellow Democrats and key unions, and about Vice President Kamala Harris possibly replacing him on the ticket.

Biden was at first defiant, saying the “UAW endorsed me, but go ahead,” meaning the United Autoworkers.

But then he flubbed the answer, mixing up Harris and Trump: “I wouldn’t have picked Vice President Trump to be vice president if she wasn’t qualified.”

Biden blasts Trump in news conference, says presumptive GOP opponent has ‘no commitment to NATO’

President Joe Biden opened his news conference by talking about NATO and security for Ukraine. He then shifted to discussing inflation and border security in the U.S., as well as negotiations for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

He then began taking reporters’ questions.

Biden opens highly anticipated news conference

Biden is opening a highly anticipated news conference with a statement on the just-concluded 75TH anniversary NATO summit he hosted in Washington.

He’ll start taking reporters’ questions after that.

UK prime minister wants to talk substance, not Biden flub

New British Prime Minister Keir Starmer declined to directly answer repeated questions about Biden’s brief verbal flub referring to Zelenskyy as “President Putin.”

Instead Starmer praised Biden for his leadership and his preparation in putting the event together and securing solid outcomes for Ukraine.

“I want to look at the substance of what’s been achieved over these two days,” said Starmer, who is making his debut on the international stage.

He said he spent several hours with the president in a private meeting and a dinner but would not offer an opinion on Biden’s capabilities.

“We’ve reached a declaration, which has been signed off (on),” Starmer said. “It was good but also one that President Biden deserves credit for.”

France's Macron says Biden ‘very much on top of things’

When asked about Biden referring to Zelenskyy as Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron said he would not comment on U.S. politics but anyone can have a slip of the tongue.

“We can all have a slip of the tongue. It’s happened to me,” Macron told reporters, speaking through an interpreter.

Macron said he had a long discussion with Biden during Wednesday’s dinner and heard his discussions in summit meetings. He described Biden as “very much on top of things.”

“He knows the issues and around the table he is amongst those who has the greatest depth of knowledge on these international issues,” said Macron.

Democratic governors gather to watch Biden face the press

As Biden prepares for his high-stakes news conference in Washington, the National Governors Association is meeting for its conference in Salt Lake City.

The nine Democratic governors present for the event filed into a private room to watch a livestream with their staffs and other Democratic officials.

Reporters were not invited in.

Biden news conference pushed back

The timing of the news conference President Joe Biden is set to hold Thursday has been changed from 6:30 p.m. EDT to no earlier than 7 p.m., and it could be held later than that due to events at the NATO summit.

More NATO allies hitting defense spending goals

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg gave the United States — and Donald Trump in particular — some of the credit Thursday for a record number of NATO countries hitting their agreed-to spending goals for military spending.

But while Trump has been the most prominent critic of fellow NATO allies that don’t meet those goals, it was Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine that really spurred defense spending in Europe. NATO expects 23 of the 32 countries to spend at least 2% of their gross domestic product on defense this year.

That number was just six countries in 2021, before Russia’s invasion.

“The clear message from the United States has had an impact. European allies are really stepping up,” Stoltenberg said.

American leaders, including Biden, have long had the same complaint. Trump has hit the point harder and more often.

Biden accidentally refers to Ukrainian leader as ‘President Putin’

President Joe Biden was winding down his remarks at an event on the sidelines of the NATO summit with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other leaders on Thursday when he made an untimely verbal flub: He referred to the Ukrainian leader as “President Putin.”

“And now I want to hand it over to the president of Ukraine, who has as much courage as he has determination, ladies and gentlemen, President Putin,” Biden said.

The room, and Zelenskyy, gasped at Biden’s gaffe, which the U.S. president quickly sought to clean up.

“President Putin? You’re going to beat President Putin,” Biden said to Zelenskyy at the event to mark the unveiling of an agreement called the Ukraine Compact. “I’m so focused on beating Putin; we got to worry about it,” Biden explained.

Zelenskyy joked: “I’m better” than Putin.

Biden agreed. “You’re a hell of a lot better.”

Trump lawyers press judge to overturn hush money conviction after Supreme Court immunity ruling

Donald Trump’s lawyers are urging the judge in his New York hush money case to overturn his conviction and dismiss the case in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on presidential immunity.

The former president’s lawyers wrote in papers made public Thursday that prosecutors rushed to try Trump in April and May while the high court was still considering his immunity claims.

“Rather than wait for the Supreme Court’s guidance, the prosecutors scoffed with hubris at President Trump’s immunity motions and insisted on rushing to trial,” Trump’s lawyers Todd Blanche and Emil Bove wrote. “Your Honor now has the authority to address these injustices, and the court is duty-bound to do so in light of the Supreme Court’s decision.”

Trump was originally scheduled to be sentenced Thursday, but that’s on hold until the trial judge, Juan M. Merchan, rules on whether to set aside Trump’s felony conviction for falsifying records to cover up a potential sex scandal.

Merchan has said he’ll rule on the defense’s request on Sept. 6 and will sentence Trump on Sept. 18, “if such is still necessary.” Prosecutors have until July 24 to respond to the defense’s arguments.

Hawaii congressman joins list of Democrats asking Biden to step aside

The number of Democratic members of Congress calling for Biden to drop out of the presidential race is continuing to grow, with U.S. Rep. Ed Case of Hawaii adding his name to the list.

Case said in a statement late Thursday afternoon that it’s unclear whether Biden can perform “the most difficult job in the world” for another four years.

Case acknowledged that replacing him would be “difficult and uncertain” but he did not believe continuing with Biden would be the “best path forward for our country.”

More than a dozen House Democrats have publicly called for Biden to step aside.

A Wisconsin-based talk-radio network agreed to remove portions of its interview with Biden

Civic Media, the Wisconsin-based talk-radio network, said it agreed to the Biden campaign’s request to make two edits to its interview with the president ahead of broadcast.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported Thursday that Civic Media said its decision to make the tweaks fell short of “journalistic interview standards.”

Civic Media’s Earl Ingram was one of two Black radio hosts who said last week that he had been given questions by the Biden campaign ahead of speaking with the president. Ingram told The Associated Press that there was “no back and forth” over the four questions he was provided.

The Biden campaign did not immediately return a message seeking comment. The campaign said it plans to refrain from offering suggested questions to hosts, according to a person familiar with the candidate’s interview booking process but not permitted to speak publicly about its operations.

Per the station, the campaign asked to remove a portion where Biden referenced having “more Blacks in my administration than any other president” and a reference to the Central Park Five case, the group of teenagers wrongly convicted of raping a white jogger in a brutal attack more than three decades ago.

2nd Arizona representative calls on Biden to step aside

Rep Greg Stanton of Arizona became the latest member of Congress to call on Biden to step out of the presidential race, a list that now numbers over a dozen.

Stanton said he was one of Biden’s earliest supporters in 2020 but that it is now time for the president to “pass the torch” to new leaders. He said in a statement that Trump poses an “existential threat to the Constitution and the rule of law,” and the Democrats need a candidate who can effectively make the case against him.

A former mayor of Phoenix, Stanton represents a Democratic-leaning suburban district that includes many of the state’s most competitive precincts, where ticket-splitting voters helped fuel Democratic gains in the emerging swing state while backing moderate Republicans who have distinguished themselves from Trump.

Stanton is the second representative from the swing state of Arizona to ask Biden to step down from the top of the ticket.

Rep. Brad Schneider becomes the 11th House Democrat to ask Biden to step down

The Democrat from Illinois is the latest member of the House Democratic caucus to ask for President Biden to step down as the nominee for president. Schneider, who has defended the president’s record in recent days, says in a statement that he was proud to support Biden’s campaign in 2020 but that now is the time for him to “secure his legacy and boldly deliver the nation to a new generation of leadership.”

“In passing the torch now, President Biden has a chance to live up to this standard and seal his place in history as one of the greatest leaders our nation, and history, has ever known,” the statement continued. “I fear if he fails to make the right choice, our democracy will hang in the balance.”

Voters see Biden as less ‘mentally sharp’ but more ‘honest’ than Trump

A new survey from the Pew Research Center underscores how concerned Americans have become about Biden’s mental acuity over the past few years. The poll also found that they are more likely to view Trump as mean-spirited and less likely to view him as honest, compared to Biden.

Only about a quarter of voters say the phrase “mentally sharp” describes Biden very or fairly well. That share has declined 6 percentage points since January and is much lower than it was four years ago, when about half of voters saw Biden as “mentally sharp.”

It’s Biden’s own supporters who are largely driving the decline. About 8 in 10 Biden supporters described Biden as “mentally sharp” in 2020, while only about half do now.

Voters have more confidence in Trump’s mental keenness. The poll found that nearly 6 in 10 voters say the phrase “mentally sharp” describes Trump well, a slight increase from 2020.

Compared to Trump, Biden is more likely to be seen by voters as someone who “cares about the needs of ordinary people” and as “honest.” And they’re considerably more likely to see Trump as “mean-spirited”: Nearly two-thirds of voters say this describes Trump well, while only around 3 in 10 say the same of Biden.

It’s been months since Biden formally faced the press solo

Biden’s high-stakes press appearance scheduled for Thursday night is his first formal solo news conference since November 2023.

The president’s last similar outing came nearly eight months ago when he took questions from reporters after his summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in California.

At that news conference, Biden called on reporters from four organizations, one of whom asked two questions.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre jumped in to end the news conference after the fourth reporter, though Biden proceeded to answer an additional nine questions.

Biden’s most recent joint news conference was during the G7 summit last month.

Biden says he’s 100% in, even if some aides have private doubts

While Biden has expressed confidence in his chances, his campaign on Thursday acknowledged they are behind, and a growing number of the president’s aides in the White House and the campaign privately harbor doubts that the president can turn it around.

But they’re taking their cues from Biden, expressing that he is in the race 100% — unless and until he isn’t, and there appeared to be no organized internal effort to convince the president to step aside. His allies were well aware heading into the week there would be more calls for him to step down, and they were prepared for it. It really is not clear how many lawmakers (or movie stars) it would take for Biden to reconsider his decision or if that number even exists.

Hungarian prime minister to meet with Trump

Hungary’s nationalist prime minister will travel to Florida to meet with former President Trump at Mar-a-Lago today.

Viktor Orbán’s second meeting with Trump since March was confirmed by a person familiar with the plans who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private event.

The Hungarian leader has openly endorsed Trump’s candidacy and hopes that the Republican will be able to bring an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Orbán is widely considered to have the warmest relations with the Kremlin among all European Union leaders. He’s also made secretive trips he made to Russia and China in recent days.

Trump’s sentencing delay puts all eyes on Biden

Trump’s sentencing in his New York hush money criminal case was originally scheduled for today, but that’s on hold now while his lawyers fight to overturn his conviction after the Supreme Court’s ruling on presidential immunity.

The delay has avoided the potential split screen of Trump being sentenced while Democrats continue to debate Biden’s viability as a reelection candidate. It also spared Trump the damage of a potential prison sentence, probation, fine or other punishments as he heads into the Republican National Convention next week in Milwaukee.

The former president’s lawyers sent a letter to Judge Juan M. Merchan the day of the high court’s decision, July 1, asking him to set aside the former president’s conviction on 34 felony counts. A full motion is due this week and prosecutors have until July 24 to respond. Merchan said he’d rule on the defense’s request on Sept. 6 and will hold sentencing on Sept. 18, if necessary.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court said that former presidents are immune from prosecution for official acts while in office. It did not define what constitutes an official act, leaving that to lower courts. Trump’s lawyers argue some evidence in the New York case, such as tweets he sent while president, should have been excluded. Some of the checks and invoices at issue in the case were also from his time as president.

Michigan representative becomes latest to call on Biden to step aside

Rep. Hillary Scholten has become the latest member of Congress to call on President Biden to step aside. She is the 10th House representative to do so.

Scholten, whose district is in the battleground state of Michigan, told The Detroit News that people can’t “unsee” Biden’s terrible debate performance, and she’s hearing from constituents that it’s shaken their confidence in the president.

The first-term Democrat praised Biden’s legacy but said on X that “it’s time to pass the torch.”

Scholten made history by winning a western district that had been a Republican stronghold for over 30 years. The district’s largest city, Grand Rapids, has been trending more Democratic in recent years, and redrawn congressional maps shifted the district from supporting Trump in the 2020 presidential election to favoring Biden.

Sunny economic news is overshadowed by Biden’s campaign turmoil

The fallout from President Biden’s June 27 debate performance has overshadowed otherwise positive economic news for the incumbent.

Consumer prices fell 0.1% on a monthly basis in June with inflation on an annual basis increasing by 3%, a positive sign for the economy, per the Labor Department on Thursday.

Coupled with a healthy job market, that would usually buoy a campaign.

But the news failed to resonate much as questions persist after Biden’s debate troubles about whether he should remain the Democratic nominee.

News from © The Associated Press, 2024
The Associated Press

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