WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is sending several senior aides to Michigan to meet with Arab American and Muslim leaders, according to three people familiar with the matter, as his administration’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war frustrates members of a key constituency in a 2024 battleground state.
Those making the trip for Thursday’s meeting include Samantha Power, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, principal deputy national security adviser Jon Finer and Steven Benjamin, who directs the Office of Public Engagement, a White House official said.
All who discussed the plans were not authorized to do so publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Also expected to attend are Tom Perez, who leads the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, as well as Mazen Basrawi, the White House liaison to American Muslim communities, and aides Jamie Citron and Dan Koh.
Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, and other campaign aides went to suburban Detroit late last month, but found a number of community leaders unwilling to meet with them.
Other community activists have gone even further as they press their disapproval of the president’s handling of the war and have formed a group called “Abandon Biden,” a movement discouraging voters from supporting the president in November.
The White House says administration officials have been in regular contact with Muslim and Arab American leaders in Michigan and across the country.
Michigan holds the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the nation and over 310,000 residents are of Middle Eastern or North African ancestry.
Many in the community have expressed anger that Biden hasn’t called for a permanent cease-fire in the 4-month-old war that has killed more than 27,000 people in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.
Israel began its military operation after Hamas on Oct. 7 launched attacks that killed some 1,200 in Israel. More than 240 people in Israel were captured and taken into Gaza. The U.S. believes more than 100 remain in captivity.
Plans for the meeting were first reported by CNN.
Associated Press writer Joey Cappelletti in Lansing, Michigan, contributed to this report.