Recap: Biden on spot for Trump ‘threat,’ plus more to know in politics this week

Senior White House officials have defended President Joe Biden’s prime-time speech Thursday in Philadelphia in which he forcefully called Donald Trump and his “Make America Great Again” movement a “threat” to the country.

The president used Independence Hall as the backdrop for a major address in which he delivered the warning, after his aides had said the speech was not about the legally embattled 45th president. “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundation of our republic,” Biden said Thursday.

A day later, he offered a clarification about those who still support his predecessor — but he did not back down from the alarms he sounded.

“I don’t consider any Trump supporter to be a threat to the country,” he told reporters after an economic event Friday. “I do think anyone who calls for the use of violence, fails to condemn violence when it’s used, refuses to acknowledge an election has been won, insists upon changing the way in which we rule and count votes, that is a threat to democracy.”

The former president shifted to general election mode with a rally Saturday night in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the first of the fall campaign.

Hours before Trump was to speak, the crowd streamed into the 10,000-seat Mohegan Sun Arena. Doug Mastriano, the GOP’s hard-line nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, was already there, as was Trump ally Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga..

While Trump’s endorsed picks won many Republican primaries this summer, many of the candidates he backed were inexperienced and polarizing figures now struggling in their November races. That’s putting Senate control — once assumed to be a lock for Republicans — on the line.

Also this week, Biden asked Congress to provide more than $47 billion in emergency dollars that would go toward the war in Ukraine, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing monkeypox outbreak and help for recent natural disasters in Kentucky and other states.

Both parties will be seeking to avoid a government shutdown in the weeks before the midterm elections, but they will have to work out differences over issues like the COVID-19 aid. Republicans have pointed to the trillions that have already been approved and money that is still unspent.

Meanwhile, Biden has tapped John Podesta, a Democratic operative and campaign manager for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, to implement climate measures in Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act, which Biden signed in August. 

As November midterms approach, Republicans are trying to put fresh energy into their quest to win a Senate majority this fall. Party operatives point fingers at fundraising failures of two GOP nominees and their idiosyncratic tech mogul backer, Peter Thiel.

Thiel’s $15 million super PAC investments helped boost Ohio’s J.D. Vance and Arizona’s Blake Masters in their competitive primaries earlier this year, with the California billionaire even influencing former President Donald Trump’s decision to endorse both candidates.

The Ohio race in particular seems in jeopardy. Rookie GOP candidate J.D. Vance goes days without any public events, and his campaign gives little information about his whereabouts.

He has been slow to build a fundraising operation, and a ground game, and is being dramatically outspent on air while racking up a nearly $900,000 in campaign debt last quarter. And now, a super PAC with ties to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is planning to spend a staggering $28 million on television ads in Ohio to save a Senate seat once viewed as a lock — and deny Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan a chance for a major, midterm upset.