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Biden Clarifies That He Wasn't Arrested in South Africa

Joe Biden clarified Friday that he had not been arrested during a 1970s-era congressional delegation trip to South Africa, as he had claimed recently.

The former vice president, who is seeking his first primary victory in South Carolina on Saturday, had said at campaign events earlier this month that he had been arrested while trying to meet with Nelson Mandela, who was serving a 27-year prison sentence at the time.

But Mr. Biden said in a Friday interview on CNN’s “New Day,” that he had been prevented from proceeding to the same airport screening area as the members of the Congressional Black Caucus who he had been traveling with during the South Africa trip to voice opposition to apartheid.

“I guess I wasn’t arrested, I was stopped,” Mr. Biden said. “I was not able to move where I wanted to go.”

Mr. Biden’s retelling of his trip had been questioned after he told recent campaign audiences that he “got arrested trying to see” Mr. Mandela, who later served as South African’s president from 1994 to 1999.

Mr. Biden has said that he met with Mr. Mandela in Washington after he became South Africa’s president and that Mr. Mandela thanked him for supporting anti-apartheid sanctions in the Senate.

Mr. Biden’s campaign had declined to comment on the claims about the arrest to The New York Times, which first reported his remarks, but later said he had been “separated from his party at the airport.”

Mr. Biden is seeking a large turnout from African-American voters in Saturday’s primary in South Carolina, where the Democratic primary electorate is majority black, and a series of Super Tuesday states on Tuesday in the South with large African-American populations.

Feb 26, 2020 at 6:33 pm ET

Obama Asks TV Stations to Pull Misleading Anti-Biden Ad Featuring His Words

Former President Obama is calling on television stations in South Carolina to take down an ad by a pro-Trump super PAC that takes Mr. Obama’s words out of context to attack Joe Biden.

The ad seeks to undercut Mr. Biden’s support with black voters ahead of the South Carolina primary on Saturday and falsely suggests that Mr. Obama criticized his former vice president on issues affecting the African-American community.

But the audio featured in the ad is actually Mr. Obama reading a passage from his 1995 book, Dreams From My Father, and is entirely unrelated to Mr. Biden.

“This despicable ad is straight out of the Republican disinformation playbook, and it’s clearly designed to suppress turnout among minority voters in South Carolina by taking President Obama’s voice out of context and twisting his words to mislead viewers,” Katie Hill, a spokeswoman for Mr. Obama, said in a statement. “In the interest of truth in advertising, we are calling on TV stations to take this ad down and stop playing into the hands of bad actors who seek to sow division and confusion among the electorate.”

Ms. Hill said Mr. Obama’s office also plans to issue a cease-and-desist letter through its law firm to compel stations to pull the ad.

Mr. Obama remains neutral in the Democratic race, she added, and has no plans to endorse in the primary.

The group behind the ad, the Committee to Defend the President, supports Mr. Trump and is spending a total of $250,000 in TV and digital ads against Mr. Biden in South Carolina, according to Federal Election Commission filings. The political action committee also ran a Spanish-language ad in Nevada ahead of the state’s caucuses attacking Mr. Biden’s record on immigration. Prior to Mr. Trump's election, the group was known as the Stop Hillary PAC and has been active since 2013.

Mr. Obama condemned similar tactics from another pro-Trump group that used the same narration from his book in an ad designed to suppress black turnout ahead of a special election in Georgia in 2017.

Mr. Biden's campaign said the ad was proof that Mr. Trump and his allies were "absolutely terrified" that he would defeat in November.

"This latest intervention in the Democratic primary is one of the most desperate yet, a despicable torrent of misinformation by the president's lackeys," said Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Mr. Biden's campaign.

The ad opens with a narrator stating that Mr. Biden promised to help the African American community, before adding: “It was a lie. Here’s President Obama.”

Mr. Obama can then be heard saying: “Plantation politics. Black people in the worst jobs. The worst housing. Police brutality rampant.”

The narration from Mr. Obama’s book refers to a passage in which the former president is recounting a conversation he had decades ago with a barber in Chicago about the relationship between local politicians and black voters.

Feb 26, 2020 at 3:01 pm ET

Trump Campaign Plans to Reach Black Voters in Their Neighborhoods

President Trump’s re-election campaign is taking their bid for more African-American voters directly into black neighborhoods.

Mr. Trump’s campaign is planning to open a series of offices in cities located in battleground states. Called “Black Voices for Trump community centers,” the sites will provide information about the president’s policies, as well as merchandise and guidance on how to vote.

Senior campaign officials unveiled their plans to reporters at the campaign’s Arlington, Va., headquarters Wednesday, showing off a mockup of what the centers will look like, complete with rows of hats and pamphlets that read “Black Voices for Trump.”

“You’re never going to get the votes you don’t ask for," said Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser.

He added: “Last time it was, 'What the hell do you have to lose?' Now you show them what they've gained from President Trump and what more they can gain if they get four more years of President Trump.”

This effort is the latest example of the campaign’s extensive push to win over black voters. Mr. Trump has emphasized his record on criminal-justice reform and the low unemployment rate among African-Americans in recent speeches, and the campaign has been holding outreach events.

Officials projected optimism that they could improve on Mr. Trump’s support from African-Americans in 2016, when he won 8 percent of the black vote. The 15 offices will be located in key battleground states, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin, where even a slight improvement could prove meaningful. Five of the offices will be in Florida.

Campaign manager Brad Parscale said of support in the black community: “At minimum, we’re double from where we were in 2016.”

The campaign did not detail the cost of the offices, which will be in addition to traditional field offices, characterizing them as a substantial investment. Officials said the first office will open in the next few weeks and that the campaign may expand the effort.

Feb 24, 2020 at 7:21 pm ET

Nevada Leaders Call for Primary In Future

Nevada Democratic leaders say it's time to move to a primary just days after its caucuses.

Former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid and Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II said the state should move to a primary in the future after it took about two days to announce full results from its caucuses Saturday.

Mr. Reid, the former Senate Democratic leader, said in a statement Sunday the Democratic party should move to primaries everywhere in order to make it easier for people to vote in presidential contests.

Mr. McCurdy call Monday for a conversation around the limitations of the caucus process.

"It's time for our State Party and elected leaders to look at shifting to a primary process moving forward," he said.

About 100,000 Nevadans voted in the caucuses, with about 75,000 in four days of in-person early voting and 25,000 on caucus day, the state party said Monday. That compares to about 84,000 in the 2016 presidential caucuses.

The process was time intensive and mired in difficulty. Days before early voting began, Nevada moved to a tech-lite, paper-heavy process. It was under pressure to deliver a seamless caucus reporting process following a fiasco in the Iowa caucuses over a botched app, jammed phone lines and days before the full results were announced.

Results trickled in on Saturday and Sunday, with full results announced on Monday afternoon in Nevada.

Nevada State Democratic Party Spokeswoman Molly Forgey reiterated Sunday that results won’t come in “as quickly as in the past” since the party was processing and reporting three sets of data instead of one for additional transparency required by Democratic National Committee rules. She added that since the party added a new four-day early-voting period, it “added another layer to the caucus math.”

The process to weight early votes in with caucus day votes was also complicated. The campaign of former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg alleged errors in how totals from early voting were blended into Nevada’s caucus-day results and requested a further breakdown of votes, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Nevada's Ms. Forgey said the party never indicated it would release a separate breakdown of early vote and in-person attendees by precinct and didn't plan to change its reporting process.

Feb 24, 2020 at 5:50 pm ET

Vulnerable House Democrats Criticize Sanders Over Castro Comments, Snub of Pro-Israel Group

Vulnerable House Democrats have criticized Sen. Bernie Sanders's recent comments on Fidel Castro and his decision to skip a prominent gathering of supporters of Israel, suggesting the front-runner in the Democratic nomination race would complicate their re-election in Republican-leaning districts.

Democrats who won competitive races in 2018 and who see themselves as moderates are increasingly worried about how Mr. Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, will fare among swing voters. Mr. Sanders's rise in the race has fueled concern that his nomination would bring losses in down-ballot races.

The Vermont senator, who solidified his place atop the Democratic race with a victory in the Nevada caucuses Saturday, said in an interview on 60 Minutes that the Cold War-era Cuban communist leader had instituted "a massive literacy program."

"We're very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it's unfair to simply say everything is bad," he said. You know? When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?"

Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Florida Democrat who won a Republican district in 2018 and represents a sizable population of Cuban-Americans, said Mr. Sanders's comments were "absolutely unacceptable."

"The Castro regime murdered and jailed dissidents, and caused unspeakable harm to too many South Florida families," she wrote on Twitter. "To this day, it remains an authoritarian regime that oppresses its people, subverts the free press, and stifles a free society."

The critical swing state of Florida is home to a sizeable and political powerful population of Cuban-Americans who have in the past punished politicians seen as overly friendly to the Havana regime. Democrat Barack Obama won the state twice and subsequently eased travel and economic restrictions on Cuba, reasoning in part that the younger generation of Cuban-Americans were open to restoring ties to the island. President Trump, who won Florida in 2016, has reversed course and has reinstated travel and economic restrictions.

On Sunday Mr. Sanders, who is Jewish, said he would not attend the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, saying the gathering gives a platform to those who "express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights."

Rep. Elaine Luria, a Virginia Democrat who beat a Republican in 2018, said, “As a proud Jewish member and staunch supporter of Israel, I condemn Senator Sanders’ comments and urge him to reconsider his derogatory remarks.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat who represents a district Mr. Trump won in 2016, said, “Bernie seems to have declared war on the Democrat Party. We need someone who will bring us together under a big tent and protect the Democratic majority in the House — not burn the house down.”

Mr. Sanders's decision was praised by some critics of the pro-Israel group.

Rep. Betty McCollum (D., Minn.) wrote, "I want to commend @SenSanders & @SenWarren for skipping the upcoming AIPAC conference. Human rights = Palestinian rights, rights for Israelis, and rights for all."