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George Clooney calls for Joe Biden to quit presidential race

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By Brandon Drenon and Bernd Debusmann, at the Nato summitBBC News, Washington

Getty Images George ClooneyGetty Images

Clooney said the Democrats will not win in November with Mr Biden

George Clooney has issued a damning call for Joe Biden to quit the US presidential race, hours after senior Democrat Nancy Pelosi swerved questions about whether he should continue.

The actor and prominent Democratic fundraiser said the president had won many battles in his career, “but the one battle he cannot win is the fight against time”.

Another Hollywood star and fundraiser, Michael Douglas, later told the BBC he was “worried” about Mr Biden’s electoral chances.

The president has stated, repeatedly, that he is determined to remain as the Democratic party’s candidate and beat Donald Trump, 78, in November.

The celebrities’ comments came after Mrs Pelosi, the former House Speaker, joined growing disquiet in the party, saying time was “running short” for Mr Biden, 81, to decide whether to stay in the race after his stumbling debate against Trump.

Clooney wrote in the New York Times that it was “devastating to say it”, but the Joe Biden he met at a fundraising event three weeks ago was not the Biden of 2010. “He wasn’t even the Joe Biden of 2020,” added the actor.

“He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate,” Clooney said.

The fundraising event, co-hosted by Clooney in Los Angeles and also featuring Julia Roberts and Barbra Streisand, brought in a single-night record of roughly $30m (£23m) for the Biden campaign.

The Biden camp has hit back at the Hollywood star, with an unnamed source telling US media: “The President stayed for over 3 hours [at the fundraiser], while Clooney took a photo quickly and left.”

The president’s campaign also pointed out that when he attended the fundraiser he had just arrived in Los Angeles from Italy, where he had been at the G7 summit.

In his op-ed, Clooney wrote: “Our party leaders need to stop telling us that 51 million people didn’t see what we just saw.”

“This is about age. Nothing more,” he continued. “We are not going to win in November with this president.”

Clooney added that his concerns matched those of “every” member of Congress with whom he had spoken.

In his own comments, Michael Douglas said he had concerns about Mr Biden’s capabilities during a potential second term: “I am worried not this week or next week, but let’s say next year.”

The actor said he had held a fundraiser in April for Mr Biden, who he believed had done an “incredible job”. But, citing the debate with Trump, he said it was important for a candidate to be “articulate” during such a “combative” political era.

Asked to respond to Clooney, Mr Biden’s campaign referred to a letter the president sent Democrats in Congress that said he was “firmly committed” to his candidacy and beating Trump.

Yet public dissent continues to grow within Mr Biden’s party as he faces scrutiny while hosting the Nato summit in Washington.

Nancy Pelosi says it’s the president’s decision to continue

Mrs Pelosi, a highly influential voice among Capitol Hill Democrats, on Wednesday appeared to disregard Mr Biden’s insistence that he was determined to forge on.

When asked if he should stay in the election race, she told MSNBC’s Morning Joe: “I want him to do whatever he decides to do.

“It’s up to the president to decide if he’s going to run. We are all encouraging him to make that decision, because time is running short.”

Acknowledging the demands on the president during the Nato summit, Mrs Pelosi told MSNBC: “I said to everyone – let’s just hold off.

“Whatever you’re thinking, either tell somebody privately, but you don’t have to put that out on the table until we see how we go this week. But I am very proud of the president.”

Around a dozen elected Democrats have suggested he abandon his campaign since his 27 June debate with Trump.

On Tuesday night, Michael Bennet of Colorado became the first Democratic senator to publicly dissent.

Although he did not call for Mr Biden to quit outright, he said Trump would win the election, possibly by a “landslide”.

On Wednesday afternoon, Peter Welch of Vermont became the first Senate Democrat to openly call on Mr Biden to withdraw, “for the good of the country”, as he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.

He was joined by the eighth and ninth congressional Democrats to make similar calls: Pat Ryan from New York and Earl Blumenauer from Oregon.

The Biden campaign repeated the president’s statement that he was “running this race to the end”.

Democratic House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries plans to speak to Mr Biden by Friday to discuss the concerns brought by several congressional party members.

Overall support from elected Democrats remains robust, however.

Gavin Newsom, the California governor who was named by Clooney as a potential replacement, said he was still “all in” with Mr Biden.

The Congressional Black Caucus, a group of roughly 60 politicians, and progressive House members like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, have publicly backed Mr Biden.

On Tuesday, Chuck Schumer, the leading Democrat in the Senate, said: “I’m with Joe.” Axios, however, reports that Mr Schumer has been privately telling donors he is open to dumping Mr Biden.

Two unnamed senior Democrats, speaking to CBS News, the BBC’s US partner, said there had been a “convergence” of opinion over the last 24 hours between elected Democrats, donors and groups that support the president’s party.

One of the sources said all of the interests have reached “a near consensus” about what Mr Biden should do.

Questions about the Democrat’s campaign were also swirling at the Nato summit in Washington DC.

Biden ignores questions from reporters during meeting with Starmer

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he was confident the US would remain a committed member of the alliance – no matter who sits in the White House next year, Mr Biden or Nato-sceptic Mr Trump.

At a news conference, the BBC asked Mr Stoltenberg if all 32 members of the alliance shared his optimism, despite the concerns over Mr Biden’s candidacy.

“I’m not saying we can always disregard concerns,” said Mr Stoltenberg. “But the more dangerous the world is, the more obvious it is we need Nato.”

He added: “It is in the interest of all of us to stand together. That also applies for the United States.”

Mr Biden will deliver a rare solo news conference on Thursday, and on Monday will record an interview with NBC News, to be broadcast later in the evening.

In the swing state of Pennsylvania on Wednesday, Democratic voters who spoke to the BBC had mixed feelings about Mr Biden.

Karren Gillchrist, in Harrisburg, said she remained firmly behind Mr Biden because “he knows exactly what he’s talking about”.

But in Elizabethtown, Melissa Nash, working on her laptop in a cafe, said: “I’m torn because I’m not a fan of Trump, but at the same time you need somebody strong to lead the country.”

Additional reporting from Rebecca Hartmann in Pennsylvania

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