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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden, facing pressure from within his own party to abandon his reelection campaign, is set to meet Wednesday with the executive council of the AFL-CIO, America's largest federation of trade unions as he tries to make the case that his record in office matters more than his age. The 81-year-old Biden is also taking part in the NATO summit and looking to use the organization's 75th-anniversary meeting as a way to spotlight support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia and to reset his stumbling campaign.

Biden has been under intense scrutiny since his disastrous debate performance, putting pressure on a White House that until recently had been marked by discipline and loyalty.

Former President Donald Trump has been reveling in the turmoil surrounding the Biden campaign and pressure from Biden's party to step down. Trump is also expected to soon announce his Republican running mate.

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Vermont Sen. Peter Welch calls on Biden to withdraw from November election

In an opinion piece for the Washington Post published Wednesday evening, Vermont Sen. Peter Welch called on President Biden to withdraw from the November general election. He is the first Democratic senator to do so, writing that ''the stakes could not be higher.''

''We cannot unsee President Biden's disastrous debate performance,'' Welch wrote. ''We cannot ignore or dismiss the valid questions raised since that night.''

The first-term senator said he is calling on Biden to withdraw ''with sadness.''

''Vermont loves Joe Biden,'' Welch wrote. ''President Biden and Vice President Harris received a larger vote percentage here than in any other state. But regular Vermonters are worried that he can't win this time, and they're terrified of another Trump presidency.''

A 9th House Democrat has called for Biden to withdraw

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, the longest-serving Democrat in Oregon's House delegation, said, ''President Biden should not be the Democratic presidential nominee.''

''The question before the country is whether the president should continue his candidacy for re-election. This is not just about extending his presidency but protecting democracy,'' he said in an emailed statement.

''It is a painful and difficult conclusion but there is no question in my mind that we will all be better served if the president steps aside as the Democratic nominee and manages a transition under his terms.''

Blumenauer, elected to Congress in 1996, will not be seeking reelection this year.

Biden talks soccer with the British prime minister

Biden welcomed new British Prime Minister Keir Starmer to the Oval Office, saying he sees the U.K. as the ''knot tying the transatlantic alliance together.''

The meeting on the margins of the 75th NATO summit in Washington follows the leaders' phone conversation last week when Starmer took office.

Biden praised Starmer for ''seeking closer ties with Europe,'' saying it would be good for the entire NATO alliance.

''The special relationship is so important,'' Starmer replied.

The two leaders engaged in a free-flowing conversation in the Oval Office, rather than delivering prepared statements. The leaders began with a jovial discussion of England's soccer victory over the Netherlands, and Biden remarked that soccer is now more popular in the U.S. than ever before.

Biden appeared to ignore a barrage of questions about his political future and doubts within his party about his reelection campaign.

NATO secretary general remains confident in U.S. commitment to the alliance

Outgoing NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he's not concerned about American commitment to the alliance if Trump is returned to the White House.

''The United States is safer and stronger with NATO, and that's why I expect it to remain in NATO,'' he said, noting longstanding support for the alliance from former presidential administrations, particularly after it invoked its Article 5 mutual defense pact to support the U.S. following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

He noted that bipartisan support for NATO among U.S. lawmakers remains strong, including among Republicans who are backing Trump. But even when it comes to Trump's own complaints about NATO, Stoltenberg says those have been addressed.

Trump has repeatedly questioned NATO's relevance, suggested that he might withdraw from the alliance or, short of that, has threatened not to defend allies who do not meet the 2% defense spending commitments. Twenty-three of the 32 allies now meet their pledge to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense and most of the rest have plans to do so in the near future, he said.

''The United States has been understood,'' Stoltenberg said. ''Allies have acted.''

New York lieutenant governor calls for Biden to end his campaign

New York Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado joined a growing list of Democrats calling on Biden to end his presidential campaign.

Delgado, a former New York representative, wrote in a statement that Biden deserves ''eternal gratitude'' for defeating Trump in 2020 and leading the country out of the coronavirus pandemic, but that Biden ''can add to his legacy, showing his strength and grace, by ending his campaign and making room for a new leader.''

''There is no greater threat to our democracy than former President Donald Trump. He must be defeated. That's is why I join with millions of Americans — including everyday New Yorkers from all walks of life — who are expressing legitimate concerns about President Biden's ability to wage a successful campaign against Trump,'' Delgado wrote.

His statement marked a significant break with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who appointed him in 2022 and has emerged as one of Biden's biggest supporters and surrogates.

NBC News Lester Holt is next in line for an interview with President Biden

The network said that Holt will interview Biden on Monday in Austin, Texas. Highlights will run on ''NBC Nightly News'' and the full interview will air during a prime-time special on NBC Monday night. A similar playbook was followed when Biden was interviewed last Friday by ABC News' George Stephanopoulos.

Biden is stepping up the appearances following his performance during the debate with Trump, which has given rise to calls for him to end his campaign.

Democrat mayors continue lining up behind Biden

Following Biden's call with over 200 U.S. mayors Wednesday morning, messages of support for the president have slowly trickled out.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens posted on Twitter that Biden is ''locked in and determined to beat Donald Trump,'' touting his record on job creation, infrastructure, prescription drug costs and women's rights. Andy Schor, the mayor of Lansing, Michigan, said he was ''impressed'' by the president, noting, ''He's going to be running, and I think that we all need to be supporting him.''

'He looks like a young Abraham Lincoln'

Trump says he's ''pretty well set in my own mind'' on his choice of running mate.

He dished on the finalists in a Fox News Radio interview Wednesday.

Is Ohio Sen. JD Vance's facial hair a strike against him?

No, Vance ''looks good. He looks like a young Abraham Lincoln,'' Trump said with a laugh.

What about the highly restrictive abortion law North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed into law?

''Well, it's a little bit of an issue. It's a pretty strong ban,'' said Trump.

And what about the fact that Sen. Marco Rubio would likely have to move out of Florida?

''No, but it does make it more complicated,'' he said.

Jill Biden treats NATO spouses to brunch

First lady Jill Biden hosted NATO spouses at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History for a brunch of green goddess chicken and seared tuna.

More than 20 spouses, including Ukraine's Olena Zalenska, also had a chance to see an exhibit featuring cultural objects such as Muppets and the ruby red shoes worn by Dorothy's character in ''The Wizard of Oz.''

The group is set to meet again Thursday at Camp David.

The first lady advised her counterparts to dress comfortably and wear flats or sneakers as they'll be getting in and out of helicopters.

Black faith leaders to gather in Georgia to support Biden

Faith leaders from hundreds of Black churches in Georgia will gather to support Biden on Thursday.

The event at the Georgia State Capitol aims to turn the attention back to Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.

''Democrats have been fighting each other for the last two weeks, and it must stop now,'' said Bishop Reginald Jackson.

He presides over 500 African Methodist Episcopal churches in the state and is one of the event's organizers.

Black voter turnout will be key in Georgia, a battleground state.

Several more Democratic mayors voice support for Biden after call

Biden didn't face calls to step aside or concerns about his fitness for office on a call he hosted for nearly 200 Democratic mayors. That's according to those who were on the call.

Reactions from some mayors:

· Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said in a letter that Biden was ''pretty fired up,'' and that he and Kamala Harris are ''exactly the leaders we need at this moment.''

· Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson told AP ''the president is in it to win it.''

· Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas said in an online post he will ''proudly stand with Joe!''

New York congressman calls on Biden to step aside

An eighth Democratic member of Congress has publicly called on President Joe Biden to step aside, the New York Times reported.

U.S. Rep. Pat Ryan of New York said he no longer believed Biden could make the case necessary to defeat Trump.

He called Trump an ''existential threat'' to American democracy and said that he was asking Biden to drop out ''for the good of the country.''

It comes as Democrats continue to wrestle with the extraordinary question of whether to stand behind the president or push him to bow out.

George Clooney joins calls for Biden to step aside

Movie star and lifelong Democrat George Clooney is adding his voice to calls for Biden to leave the presidential race.

Clooney said in a New York Times opinion piece Wednesday that he loves Biden, but the party would lose the presidential race and any control in Congress with him as the nominee.

''This isn't only my opinion; this is the opinion of every senator and congress member and governor that I've spoken with in private,'' wrote Clooney, who has hosted high-dollar Hollywood fundraisers.

Clooney argued the party should pick a new nominee at its convention next month.

US will need strong allies no matter who wins, Finnish president says

The president of Finland says that regardless of whether Biden or Trump win the presidency in November, the U.S. will remain a superpower. That will require it to have strong allies — especially in Europe.

Alexander Stubb said he is worried about the ''polarization of the political climate,'' calling it ''quite toxic.''

Stubb spoke to reporters as he arrived at the NATO summit Wednesday.

Stubb also said there is ''strong bipartisan support'' for Ukraine and NATO, following a meeting with 15 U.S. senators.

Ukraine is on 'irreversible' path to joining NATO -- after end of war with Russia, US says

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Ukraine is on an ''irreversible'' path to NATO membership.

That advances American assurances that Ukraine will be allowed to join the Western self-defense alliance after its war against Russia ends.

All 32 allies are expected to issue a joint communique Wednesday cementing that ''irreversible'' commitment to Ukraine. That's according to a European official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss before the release.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has battled for a firm guarantee Ukraine can join. The U.S. and some others have opposed to avoid an escalation with Russia that could lead to a larger war.

— Associated Press reporter Ellen Knickmeyer contributed to this story.


LA mayor backs Biden

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass released a one-sentence statement after the president held a virtual event with nearly 200 Democratic mayors.

''I'm supporting our nominee, President Biden,'' she said.

Bass is a former member of Congress who was on Biden's vice-presidential shortlist during his 2020 campaign.

U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla of California has also backed the president, sending a fundraising appeal on behalf of Biden's campaign.

''The stakes of this election are simply too high to continue fretting and worrying,'' he wrote.

Pelosi stops short of saying Biden should continue

Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi stopped short of saying President Joe Biden should continue his re-election campaign, saying ''it's up to the president to decide'' if he's going to run.

''We're all encouraging him to make that decision, because time is running short,'' Pelosi said early Wednesday on MSNBC.

Pressed on whether she personally wants Biden to stay on the top of the ticket, Pelosi said, ''I want him to do whatever he decides to do.''

She said she watched as he delivered a forceful speech at NATO, and while foreign leaders are in Washington she encouraged Democrats to ''hold off'' with any announcements about his campaign.

Pelosi has been widely watched for signals of how top Democrats are thinking about Biden's candidacy.