LOS ANGELES - President Joe Biden kicked off a three-day, star-studded fundraising trip in California on Friday by mocking Republican frontrunner Donald Trump for claiming he would be a dictator just on his first day in office if he became president again.
Trump said on Tuesday that he will not become a dictator if he becomes U.S. president again, except "on day one."
"Thank God, only one day," Biden quipped at a fundraiser in Los Angeles at the home of Michael Smith, a celebrity interior designer, and his partner, James Costos, a former HBO executive who was President Barack Obama's ambassador to Spain.
Biden called Trump, who lost the 2020 election but sought to overturn the results, a threat to democracy. Trump was indicted in August for wide-ranging attempts to overturn the election.
Biden's trip comes a day after the Department of Justice filed new criminal charges against Biden's son, Hunter, accusing him of failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes while spending millions of dollars on a lavish lifestyle. The president did not mention his son during his remarks at the fundraiser.
California - and the deep-pocketed entertainment industry - has long served as a major funding source for Democrats, but long strikes by actors and screenwriters had a chilling effect on fundraising.
The end of the labor unrest has unlocked pent-up dollars, said Jeffrey Katzenberg, a movie mogul and campaign co-chair who has emerged as an influential voice in Biden's effort to win re-election in November 2024.
"It will be the most successful day and a half for the campaign to date and likely one of the most successful day and a halfs prior to a general election, where things sort of kick into a whole 'nother gear, that we've ever had out here for any candidate ever," Katzenberg said in an interview with Reuters.
Biden was scheduled to participate in two Los Angeles fundraisers expected to include directors Steven Spielberg and Rob Reiner and musicians Barbra Streisand and Lenny Kravitz. The California swing is part of a blitz of at least nine fundraisers Biden will hold before the end of the month.
The fundraisers in California and an earlier round in Boston are expected to raise at least $15 million, according to a source familiar with the events, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The total haul in the fourth quarter of 2023 is expected to be close to $67 million, the source said, adding that the amount will be similar to that raised by then President Obama during the same period in 2011.
Katzenberg, who is helping to organize one of the fundraisers, said the final number was still fluid.
"The number is big. I know that," said Katzenberg, who co-founded DreamWorks Animation.
Biden stopped briefly in Las Vegas on Friday to announce $8.2 billion in funding for 10 new passenger rail projects.
"Trump just talks the talk. We walk the walk," Biden told a crowd of unionized carpenters there. "He likes to say America is a failing nation. Frankly, he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. I see shovels in the ground, cranes in the sky. People hard at work rebuilding America together."
The projects, funded by the $1 trillion infrastructure law, include $3 billion for the nation's first high-speed rail line, which will run through California, according to a senior administration official.
Biden also announced a $3 billion investment to help create another high-speed rail corridor between Las Vegas and Southern California, along with money for projects in North Carolina, Virginia and Washington.
Biden has spent the last year crisscrossing the country announcing new funding tethered to his signature pieces of legislation: the infrastructure law, the Chips and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.
It is part of a bid to boost his poll ratings and convince voters he is the right person to lead the U.S. economy, but recent public opinion polls show the effort has had little success.
(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw and Nandita Bose; Editing by Jamie Freed, Jonathan Oatis and Edmund Klamann)