Joe Biden’s George Clooney fundraiser gives him a new Ukraine headache

President Joe Biden faces pushback after reports that the president might not attend a peace summit for Ukraine next month due to a fundraiser in California scheduled for the same weekend.

According to people close to the matter who spoke with Bloomberg, Biden plans to miss the peace discussions hosted by Switzerland to attend a campaign event in Los Angeles on June 15. The event will feature former President Barack Obama, late-night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel, and Hollywood stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts.

Bloomberg’s sources, who asked not to be named, said that Biden is planning on flying straight from a Group of Seven (G7) summit in Italy scheduled June 13 to June 15 to make it to the campaign event, bypassing the Swiss meeting scheduled for June 15 and June 16. Biden is the only G7 leader who has not accepted Switzerland’s invitation. Vice President Kamala Harris is also not scheduled to attend the peace summit, according to Bloomberg’s report.

Newsweek was not able to independently verify Bloomberg’s report regarding Biden’s schedule, and an email was sent to the White House Press Office on Friday seeking comment.

President Joe Biden on Thursday participates in a joint press conference with Kenyan President William Ruto (not pictured) in the East Room at the White House in Washington, D.C. Biden faces criticism after reports that…

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The apparent clash in Biden’s schedule is proving to be a public relations problem as the president approaches the election in November. Biden has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in February 2022, but has begun to shift more of his focus on reelection efforts. Preliminary polling shows Biden in a tight race with former President Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

Several users on X, formerly Twitter, expressed discontent over reports that Biden may miss the peace summit to attend the Los Angeles event. Doug Klain, policy analyst at nonprofit Razom for Ukraine, posted to X on Friday afternoon that the summit “was specifically timed to make it easy for G7 leaders departing their summit to join.”

“Biden missing it for a fundraiser wouldn’t just be ridiculous, it would deeply undermine Ukraine’s position in the war and in potential future negotiations,” Klain added.

“Umm, perhaps Biden should reconsider whether attending a Hollywood fundraiser is more important than attending Ukraine’s Peace Summit,” added Maria Popova, professor of political science at Canada’s McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.

Ukrainian online news site Euromaidan Press also characterized Biden’s purported decision to attend his event in California as “a move that prioritizes election campaign funding over diplomatic efforts.”

Over 70 countries have signed up to attend the peace summit, according to the Swiss government, which said that the goal of the meeting is to “develop a common understanding of a path towards a just and lasting peace in Ukraine.” More than 160 delegations were invited to attend.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters during a press briefing on Wednesday that he could not confirm if Biden plans to attend the peace summit.

“What I will say is that I’ve personally engaged in preparations for that summit, as have others in our government, and, you know, we’ve been a key player in helping drive forward a vision of peace that includes Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the principles of the U.N. Charter,” Sullivan added.

Swiss President Viola Amherd said on Wednesday that her country is hoping to persuade additional countries to sign up for the peace talks, including players like China, which has served as a key ally to Russia since the start of the war. Beijing has not accepted the invitation.

Russia was not invited to the meeting, and Kremlin Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said that the summit was “another hoax invented by the U.S. State Department.”

“How can a ‘peace conference’ be organized by those who simultaneously supply weapons to the conflict zone with supposedly pacifist initiatives?” Zakharova added, according to a report by Russian state-owned news site Sputnik.