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Biden to talk jobs in North Carolina as Trump charges loom, Republicans meet

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By Nandita Bose and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden headed to North Carolina on Friday to tout his economic agenda and pledge support to military families, hitting a key political swing state during a Republican convention there, and as criminal charges loom for his predecessor Donald Trump.

Biden and his wife, Jill, will make stops at Nash Community College in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, to discuss workforce training programs and at the newly renamed Fort Liberty military base to talk about new efforts to help veterans and families of those serving in the military, the White House said.

Biden’s trip comes as Republican presidential candidates are converging on North Carolina for the state’s Republican convention. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Trump, who are competing against each other and a field of others for their party’s 2024 presidential nomination, are expected to speak there on Friday and Saturday nights, respectively.

Trump, who has a wide lead in polls over DeSantis, has been indicted by a federal grand jury for retaining classified government documents and obstruction of justice. On Thursday Trump said he was an “innocent man.”

Biden, who is running for re-election, did not take questions on Friday before departing for his trip. Republicans have alleged, without evidence, that the Trump indictment is a politically-motivated move by Biden.

White House spokesperson Olivia Dalton said the president found out about the indictment at the same time others did and had not had advance knowledge of it. She declined further comment.

“This is a president who respects the rule of law,” she told reporters on Air Force One. “That’s precisely why we’re not commenting here.”

Biden’s trip underscores his team’s political strategy as he makes an unprecedented run at the age of 80 for reelection. As Republicans trade barbs, Biden will be keen to be seen visibly, actively governing, especially on non-partisan issues like jobs.

The so-called bully pulpit is a key advantage that incumbent presidents of both parties have long put to effective use. Just 10 presidents running as incumbents have lost reelection bids.

Biden is slated to attend a rally with union members on June 17 in Philadelphia.

North Carolina, with 15 electoral votes, is an important political swing state that Trump won, though only with a slim margin, in 2020. Biden won overall with 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.

Trump is ahead of his rivals in North Carolina and that lead mirrors his dominance in other states, according to a poll released Thursday by Opinion Diagnostics. He leads the North Carolina Republican field with 44% of the vote, followed by DeSantis at 22%, the poll shows.

During his trip, Biden will announce a series of executive actions to “increase the economic security of military and veteran spouses, caregivers, and survivors,” the White House said. He will do so at Fort Liberty, a U.S. Army base that was recently renamed from Fort Bragg as part of an effort to relabel bases named for Confederate officers.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Heather Timmons and Alistair Bell)

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