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Business leaders and pro-democracy activists call on Biden to withdraw in a letter

A prominent group of political donors, civic leaders and business executives formed to protect the institutions of American democracy sent a letter to President Biden Friday morning urging him to “cement his legacy” by withdrawing his candidacy for re-election.

“We respectfully ask that you withdraw your candidacy for re-election in the interest of our democracy and the future of our nation,” wrote 168 signatories of the private letter, which continued to gain signatures even after it was delivered to senior White House officials.

The letter was organized by the Leadership Now Project, a group founded in 2018 in response to growing concerns about threats to democratic norms. It was delivered to several White House advisers, said a person familiar with the effort who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private communications.

Signatories include Christy Walton, the billionaire daughter-in-law of Walmart's founder; retired NFL Commissioner Paul J. Tagliabue; billionaire investor Mike Novogratz; former Google executive Ning Mosberger-Tang; Warburg Pincus CEO Harsha Marti; Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig; New York University professor and podcaster Scott Galloway; Weyco Group CEO Tom Florsheim; former Army Secretary Louis Caldera; and hedge fund investor Kevin Brennan of Bridgewater Associates. Vicky Hausman, the CEO of Forward Majority, a group supporting Democrats in the state elections, also signed.

Voter concerns about President Biden's age date back to 2019. The fallout from his poor performance in the debate has made it a turning point for his re-election. (Video: JM Rieger, Adriana Usero/The Washington Post, Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

Daniella Ballou-Aares, the executive director of the Leadership Now Project, who served in the Obama administration, declined to comment on the letter on Friday. The group had already released an unsigned statement on Wednesday calling on Biden to resign.

“Our greatest concern is the risk that the former president [Donald] “Trump poses a threat to the economy and national security and there is a risk that he will undermine the rule of law,” Ballou-Aares said on Thursday during an appearance on CNN. “We are also speaking to members of the House and Senate to express our concerns.”

She said that if Biden remains the nominee, she expects all members of the group to continue to support him against Trump. She also said that Biden is now much more likely to lose than win if he remains the nominee.

The White House referred a request for comment to the Biden team, which responded with a statement about the president's record and Trump's unsuitability for the office.

“Economists warn that Trump will drive up inflation and plunge us into recession, while President Biden's agenda will continue to cut costs and boost job growth. For anyone who wants to see America succeed, the choice in this election couldn't be clearer,” said Charles Lutvak, spokesman for the Biden campaign.

In the letter, delivered Friday, the group praised Biden's decades-long commitment to the public.

“As members of the Leadership Now Project and like-minded business and civic leaders committed to protecting American democracy, we have been vocal about the dangers posed by a second term for Donald Trump. The risks to America are enormous: global and domestic instability, the abandonment of our allies, cronyism, political retaliation, and a further erosion of the rights of women and other groups,” the letter said.

“At this pivotal moment for our nation, it is time to cement your legacy by passing the torch – just as George Washington did,” the letter continued.