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White House fetes Kenya with state dinner featuring sunset views, celebrity star power

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White House fetes Kenya with state dinner featuring sunset views, celebrity star power
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White House fetes Kenya with state dinner featuring sunset views, celebrity star power

2024-05-24 10:54 Last Updated At:11:01

WASHINGTON (AP) — Thursday's White House state dinner honoring Kenyan President William Ruto offered around 500 guests stunning D.C. views, a knockout menu, a dose of celebrity star power and even a little family drama.

"I'm looking forward to having all the conversations,” Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar declared as she arrived, no doubt speaking for many a guest at one of the largest-ever White House state dinners.

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Former President Bill Clinton toasts during the State Dinner with President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Kenya's President William Ruto and first lady Rachel Ruto at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Thursday's White House state dinner honoring Kenyan President William Ruto offered around 500 guests stunning D.C. views, a knockout menu, a dose of celebrity star power and even a little family drama.

County music performer Brad Paisley sings during the State Dinner with President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Kenya's President William Ruto and first lady Rachel Ruto at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

County music performer Brad Paisley sings during the State Dinner with President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Kenya's President William Ruto and first lady Rachel Ruto at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Kenya's President William Ruto exchanges a toast with President Joe Biden during a State Dinner at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Kenya's President William Ruto exchanges a toast with President Joe Biden during a State Dinner at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Roger and Jane Goodell arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Roger and Jane Goodell arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Barbara Kingsolver and Steven Hopp arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Barbara Kingsolver and Steven Hopp arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Rev. Al Sharpton and Aisha McShaw arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Rev. Al Sharpton and Aisha McShaw arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcome Kenya's President William Ruto and first lady Rachel Ruto to the White House in Washington for a State Dinner, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcome Kenya's President William Ruto and first lady Rachel Ruto to the White House in Washington for a State Dinner, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Kenya's President William Ruto speaks before offering a toast during a State Dinner with President Joe Biden at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Kenya's President William Ruto speaks before offering a toast during a State Dinner with President Joe Biden at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

LeVar Burton and Stephanie Cozart Burton arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

LeVar Burton and Stephanie Cozart Burton arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Brad and Kimberly Williams Paisley arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Brad and Kimberly Williams Paisley arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcome Kenya's President William Ruto and first lady Rachel Ruto to the White House in Washington for a State Dinner, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcome Kenya's President William Ruto and first lady Rachel Ruto to the White House in Washington for a State Dinner, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Kate Gallego, Mayor of Phoenix and Mark Weinberg arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Kate Gallego, Mayor of Phoenix and Mark Weinberg arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Sean Penn and Ann Lee arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Sean Penn and Ann Lee arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Don McLean and Paris Dunn arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Don McLean and Paris Dunn arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

First lady Jill Biden, right, and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto visit the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Center, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

First lady Jill Biden, right, and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto visit the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Center, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

FILE - White House executive chef Cris Comerford, left, and White House executive pastry chef Susie Morrison, right, hold dishes during a media preview for the State Dinner with President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Nov. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

FILE - White House executive chef Cris Comerford, left, and White House executive pastry chef Susie Morrison, right, hold dishes during a media preview for the State Dinner with President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Nov. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

White House Executive Pastry Chef Susie Morrison holds a dessert of a white chocolate basket with banana ganache, raspberries, peaches, and candied lime zest, during a preview of the State Dinner with Kenya, Wednesday, May 22, 2024, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

White House Executive Pastry Chef Susie Morrison holds a dessert of a white chocolate basket with banana ganache, raspberries, peaches, and candied lime zest, during a preview of the State Dinner with Kenya, Wednesday, May 22, 2024, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Joe Biden and Kenya's President William Ruto walk along the Colonnade around the Rose Garden on their way to the Oval Office for a meeting after a State Arrival Ceremony at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool)

President Joe Biden and Kenya's President William Ruto walk along the Colonnade around the Rose Garden on their way to the Oval Office for a meeting after a State Arrival Ceremony at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool)

First lady Jill Biden, from right, and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto speak to students at a cybersecurity class at the Advanced Technical Center, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

First lady Jill Biden, from right, and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto speak to students at a cybersecurity class at the Advanced Technical Center, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Joe Biden and Kenya's President William Ruto talk following a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden and Kenya's President William Ruto talk following a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

A place setting is seen atop a sequined tablecloth during a media preview, Wednesday, May 22, 2024, ahead of Thursday evening's State Dinner with Kenya's President William Ruto, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

A place setting is seen atop a sequined tablecloth during a media preview, Wednesday, May 22, 2024, ahead of Thursday evening's State Dinner with Kenya's President William Ruto, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Country singer Brad Paisley showed up in his signature cowboy hat, and was wearing dual hats as both dinner guest and featured entertainer. He joked that a pavilion largely made of glass that was erected on the South Lawn for the dinner was the world's fanciest greenhouse, then led off his set with his hits “American Saturday Night” and “This is Country Music."

Singer-songwriter Don McLean attended the festivities, as did Barbara Kingsolver, author of “The Poisonwood Bible,” set in Africa. Asked what about the continent inspired her, Kingsolver replied, “Everything.”

Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms brought her 16-year-old son — but she confessed to reporters that he didn’t want to hold her hand. Democratic New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker brought his mom, pronouncing her “the greatest woman in the world.”

The dinner entertainment mixed Paisley's country music and the gospel choir of Howard University. It was designed with the tastes of Ruto and his wife, Rachel, in mind, with first lady Jill Biden noting the Rutos’ “love of gospel and country music.” The Kenyan president is a former evangelist and often leads praise and worship songs when he speaks in churches in his country.

The menu featured fruitwood-smoked beef short ribs, poached lobster, chilled heirloom tomato soup and a white chocolate basket.

Guests made their red carpet arrival in an entryway adorned with red roses and hot pink orchids while Toto’s hit “Africa” played on violin. The extra-long guest list did require cutting some corners: The typical presidential receiving line was nixed because it would have taken too long to get everyone through.

Actor LeVar Burton of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Reading Rainbow” fame joked that his word of the day for the modern political climate was “fraught,” but clarified that he meant it was fraught “with possibilities.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was there, as was his NBA counterpart, Adam Silver, who declared, “We need another basketball court at the White House.”

Former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, were on hand, as was another ex-president — Barack Obama — who popped by briefly early in the evening but didn't stick around. During his toast to Ruto, President Joe Biden joked that attendees included “many members of the African diaspora, one who just left, Barack."

Hillary Clinton pronounced it “wonderful to be back." Her husband told reporters he particularly liked ”the girl behind you," pointing to a portrait on the wall of his wife from her first lady days.

The gathering was the first White House state dinner for an African nation since 2008, and it was the sixth and largest of the state dinners thrown by Biden.

The event was part of the administration’s efforts to build ties with Africa. Biden failed to keep a promise to visit the continent last year, but this week he said he plans to visit “in February, after I’m reelected” — a show of optimism about his prospects in November’s election.

Ruto is on a three-day state visit that coincides with his East African nation prepares to deploy forces to Haiti, part of a U.N.-led effort to try to calm a spiraling security crisis there.

Biden said the U.S. and Kenya “share a strong respect for the history that connects us together.”

In his toast, Ruto said, “We proudly take a firm stance, shoulder to shoulder, for democracy in a world where troubles have shaken the faith of men."

Other actors on-hand were Wilmer Valderrama, Sean Penn and Michaela Coel. But even celebrities felt a wow factor. Coel, wearing a red and gold dress borrowed from a Sudanese friend, said it was "my first time in Washington — the closest I’ve had to this is ‘Hamilton,’ the musical.”

NBC news anchor Lester Holt said it was his second state dinner, joking, “I don’t get out much.”

Other attendees included former “Top Chef” contestant Kwame Onwuachi and top Democratic donor Mark Gallogly. Sheryl Sandberg, who helped to transform Facebook from a tech startup into a digital advertising empire, philanthropist Melinda Gates and Hunter Biden, the president’s son, who is scheduled to stand trial next month on gun charges in Delaware and on federal tax charges in September, were also there.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, a longtime, leading Democratic voice and former presidential candidate himself, was asked while arriving about Biden’s chances against his predecessor and the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump. He responded that “democracy is going to win in ’24” while adding that Africa has not been properly recognized on the world stage — which he said made Thursday night’s dinner especially important.

The decor featured fuchsia and purple African orchids and American roses. That's a pairing that symbolizes enduring U.S.-Kenyan friendship, Jill Biden said, while recalling her own visit to Kenya as part of a five-day, two-country 2023 African tour.

Guests dined in the sprawling, transparent pavilion meant to afford sweeping views of the sun setting over the Washington Monument and, later, stars overhead. More than 1,000 candles were placed along the pavilion walls, while a suspended centerpiece with 15,000 layered reflective metallic strips was there to amplify the candlelight.

Kenya last had a White House state dinner in 2003. No African nation has had one since President George W. Bush honored Ghana's President John Kufuor five years after that.

The Bidens previously hosted post-pandemic state dinners for France, South Korea and India — which featured the Biden administration's previous attendance high of nearly 400 guests — as well as for Australia in October and Japan last month.

—-

Associated Press writer Evelyne Musambi contributed to this report from Nairobi, Kenya.

Former President Bill Clinton toasts during the State Dinner with President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Kenya's President William Ruto and first lady Rachel Ruto at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Former President Bill Clinton toasts during the State Dinner with President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Kenya's President William Ruto and first lady Rachel Ruto at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

County music performer Brad Paisley sings during the State Dinner with President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Kenya's President William Ruto and first lady Rachel Ruto at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

County music performer Brad Paisley sings during the State Dinner with President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Kenya's President William Ruto and first lady Rachel Ruto at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Kenya's President William Ruto exchanges a toast with President Joe Biden during a State Dinner at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Kenya's President William Ruto exchanges a toast with President Joe Biden during a State Dinner at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Roger and Jane Goodell arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Roger and Jane Goodell arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Barbara Kingsolver and Steven Hopp arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Barbara Kingsolver and Steven Hopp arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Rev. Al Sharpton and Aisha McShaw arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Rev. Al Sharpton and Aisha McShaw arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcome Kenya's President William Ruto and first lady Rachel Ruto to the White House in Washington for a State Dinner, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcome Kenya's President William Ruto and first lady Rachel Ruto to the White House in Washington for a State Dinner, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Kenya's President William Ruto speaks before offering a toast during a State Dinner with President Joe Biden at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Kenya's President William Ruto speaks before offering a toast during a State Dinner with President Joe Biden at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

LeVar Burton and Stephanie Cozart Burton arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

LeVar Burton and Stephanie Cozart Burton arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Brad and Kimberly Williams Paisley arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Brad and Kimberly Williams Paisley arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcome Kenya's President William Ruto and first lady Rachel Ruto to the White House in Washington for a State Dinner, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcome Kenya's President William Ruto and first lady Rachel Ruto to the White House in Washington for a State Dinner, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Kate Gallego, Mayor of Phoenix and Mark Weinberg arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Kate Gallego, Mayor of Phoenix and Mark Weinberg arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Sean Penn and Ann Lee arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Sean Penn and Ann Lee arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Don McLean and Paris Dunn arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Don McLean and Paris Dunn arrive at the Booksellers area of the White House for the State Dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for Kenya's President William Ruto and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

First lady Jill Biden, right, and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto visit the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Center, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

First lady Jill Biden, right, and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto visit the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Center, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

FILE - White House executive chef Cris Comerford, left, and White House executive pastry chef Susie Morrison, right, hold dishes during a media preview for the State Dinner with President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Nov. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

FILE - White House executive chef Cris Comerford, left, and White House executive pastry chef Susie Morrison, right, hold dishes during a media preview for the State Dinner with President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Nov. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

White House Executive Pastry Chef Susie Morrison holds a dessert of a white chocolate basket with banana ganache, raspberries, peaches, and candied lime zest, during a preview of the State Dinner with Kenya, Wednesday, May 22, 2024, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

White House Executive Pastry Chef Susie Morrison holds a dessert of a white chocolate basket with banana ganache, raspberries, peaches, and candied lime zest, during a preview of the State Dinner with Kenya, Wednesday, May 22, 2024, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Joe Biden and Kenya's President William Ruto walk along the Colonnade around the Rose Garden on their way to the Oval Office for a meeting after a State Arrival Ceremony at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool)

President Joe Biden and Kenya's President William Ruto walk along the Colonnade around the Rose Garden on their way to the Oval Office for a meeting after a State Arrival Ceremony at the White House, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool)

First lady Jill Biden, from right, and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto speak to students at a cybersecurity class at the Advanced Technical Center, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

First lady Jill Biden, from right, and Kenya's first lady Rachel Ruto speak to students at a cybersecurity class at the Advanced Technical Center, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Joe Biden and Kenya's President William Ruto talk following a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden and Kenya's President William Ruto talk following a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

A place setting is seen atop a sequined tablecloth during a media preview, Wednesday, May 22, 2024, ahead of Thursday evening's State Dinner with Kenya's President William Ruto, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

A place setting is seen atop a sequined tablecloth during a media preview, Wednesday, May 22, 2024, ahead of Thursday evening's State Dinner with Kenya's President William Ruto, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

BUTLER, Pa. (AP) — Former President Donald Trump called for unity and resilience Sunday after an attempt on his life injected fresh uncertainty into an already tumultuous presidential campaign, while President Joe Biden implored Americans to “cool it down” in the final stretch and “resolve our differences at the ballot box.”

The opponents' statements followed an attack that shook the firmament of the American political system, causing at least a temporary detente in a heated presidential campaign expected to resume again in earnest amid the pageantry of the upcoming Republican National Convention.

A full day after the shooting, the gunman's motive remained a mystery, with investigators saying they believe he acted alone before he was fatally shot by Secret Service agents. Biden ordered an independent security review of the attack, which killed a bystander, critically wounded two others and prompted questions about how a gunman was able to open fire from a rooftop near a Pennsylvania campaign rally. The FBI was investigating the shooting as a potential act of domestic terrorism.

Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said the upper part of his right ear was pierced by a bullet. His aides said he was in “great spirits” and doing well. He arrived in Milwaukee on Sunday evening for the convention, which begins Monday.

In a post Sunday on his social media site, Trump said: “In this moment, it is more important than ever that we stand United, and show our True Character as Americans, remaining Strong and Determined, and not allowing Evil to Win."

In a prime-time address, Biden urged the public to recommit to civil debate. “There is no place in America for this kind of violence — for any violence. Ever. Period. No exception," he said. "We can’t allow this violence to be normalized.”

Trump on Saturday night spoke briefly with Biden, whose Sunday night speech marked his third time addressing the shooting.

The rallygoer who was killed was Corey Comperatore, a former fire chief from the area, according to Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, who said Comperatore “died a hero.”

“His wife shared with me that he dove on his family to protect them,” Shapiro said. The two wounded bystanders were listed in stable condition.

The FBI identified the gunman as Thomas Matthew Crooks, 20, of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the scene of the shooting.

The gunman had his father's AR-style rifle and was perched atop a nearby roof when some rallygoers pointed him out to local law enforcement, said two law enforcement officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing criminal probe.

A local law enforcement officer climbed to the roof and found Crooks, who pointed the rifle at the officer. The officer retreated down the ladder, and the gunman quickly fired toward Trump, the officials said. That's when U.S. Secret Service gunmen shot him, the officials said.

Questions abounded about how the gunman got so close in the first place. Kevin Rojek, the agent in charge of the FBI’s Pittsburgh field office, said "it is surprising” the gunman was able to open fire on the stage before the Secret Service killed him.

Bomb-making materials were found inside both Crooks' vehicle and at his home, officials said. The FBI described the devices as “rudimentary."

His motive remained unclear. Crooks wasn't on the FBI's radar, and he was believed to have acted alone. Investigators combed through his social media accounts but found no immediate threatening writing or posts, or communications indicating an ideological motive. His family was cooperating. Crooks’ relatives didn't return messages seeking comment from the AP.

Crooks’ political leanings were not clear. Records show Crooks was registered as a Republican voter in Pennsylvania, but federal campaign finance reports also show he gave $15 to a progressive political action committee on Jan. 20, 2021, the day Biden was sworn in as president.

The absence of a clear ideological motive added to deepening questions about the shooting.

Biden urged Americans to stay patient. “Please, don’t make assumptions about his motives or his affiliations," he said.

The attack was the most serious attempt to kill a president or presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981. It drew new attention to concerns about political violence in a deeply polarized U.S. less than four months before the presidential election.

FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate said agents have seen increasingly violent rhetoric online since the rally, along with people posing online as the dead shooter. He said the FBI was focused on the upcoming political conventions in Milwaukee and Chicago.

Biden on Sunday ordered a security review of operations for the Republican National Convention, which is proceeding as planned. The Secret Service said it was “confident” in the security plan, and no additional changes were planned.

Biden said the two men had a “short but good” conversation Saturday night. Biden returned to Washington from his Delaware beach home where he met with leaders in the Situation Room about the attack. He said during an address Sunday afternoon that “there is no place in America for this kind of violence.”

Yet many Republicans blamed the violence on Biden and his allies, arguing that sustained attacks on Trump as a threat to democracy have created a toxic environment.

It's unclear whether Biden will be forced to recalibrate a campaign largely focused on Trump as a threat to democracy. It is a situation the U.S. has not seen since Teddy Roosevelt was shot a month before the election in 1912 while campaigning to regain the White House as a third-party candidate.

Trump was showing off a chart of border crossing numbers when the gunfire began after 6:10 p.m. Saturday.

As the first pop rang out, Trump said “oh,” raised his hand to his right ear and looked at it, then quickly crouched to the ground. People in the stands behind him also crouched as screams rang out.

Someone could be heard near the microphone saying, “Get down, get down, get down, get down!” as agents rushed to the stage. They piled atop Trump to shield him as other agents took up positions on stage to search for the threat.

Afterward, voices were heard saying, “Shooter’s down” several times, before someone asked, “Are we good to move?” and “Are we clear?” Then someone ordered, “Let’s move.”

Trump got to his feet moments later and could be seen reaching with his right hand toward his face, streaked with blood. He then pumped his fist in the air and appeared to mouth the word “fight” twice, prompting cheers and chants of “USA. USA. USA.”

His motorcade left moments later. Video showed Trump turning back to the crowd and raising a fist right before he was put into a vehicle.

When the firing began, “everybody went to their knees or their prone position,” said Dave McCormick, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, who was sitting to Trump’s right on stage.

As he saw Trump raise his fist, McCormick said, he looked over his shoulder and noticed someone had been hit in the bleachers behind the stage.

Eventually, first responders were able to carry the wounded person out for medical care, McCormick said.

Reporters heard five or six shots, and many ducked for cover, hiding under tables. After the first two or three bangs, people in the crowd looked startled but not panicked. An AP reporter described the noise as sounding like firecrackers at first, or perhaps a car backfiring.

When it was clear the situation was contained and Trump wouldn't return to speak, attendees started filing out. Police soon told everyone to leave, and Secret Service agents described the site as "a live crime scene.”

Republican Rep. Mike Kelly, who represents the area where the shooting occurred, attended with his wife and grandchildren and was just behind Trump when he was wounded. Kelly said he was “in a state of bewilderment of how and what has happened to the United States of America.”

“I just wish people — tone it down,” he said. “Quit trying to find, to blame somebody. The blame lies somewhere in the psyche of America.”

Colvin, Balsamo and Price reported from New York. Long and Tucker reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Will Weissert, Michael Biesecker, Alanna Durkin Richer, Lisa Mascaro and Tara Copp in Washington, and Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, contributed to this report

Law enforcement block a street in Bethel Park, Pa., that they say had a residence of Thomas Matthew Crooks, the suspected shooter of former President Donald Trump, Sunday, July 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Joshua A. Bickel)

Law enforcement block a street in Bethel Park, Pa., that they say had a residence of Thomas Matthew Crooks, the suspected shooter of former President Donald Trump, Sunday, July 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Joshua A. Bickel)

Police officers stand at a road leading to the site of the Trump rally, where access is closed, as investigations into the assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump continue, in Butler, Pa., Sunday, July 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

Police officers stand at a road leading to the site of the Trump rally, where access is closed, as investigations into the assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump continue, in Butler, Pa., Sunday, July 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

A campaign rally site for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is empty and littered with debris Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

A campaign rally site for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is empty and littered with debris Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Pennsylvania State Troopers guard the entrance to Butler Memorial Hospital, Saturday, July 13, 2024, where Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump was said to be taken after shots were fired at a campaign rally in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

Pennsylvania State Troopers guard the entrance to Butler Memorial Hospital, Saturday, July 13, 2024, where Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump was said to be taken after shots were fired at a campaign rally in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is moved from the stage at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is moved from the stage at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Members of the crowd react as U.S. Secret Service agents surround Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Members of the crowd react as U.S. Secret Service agents surround Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures while surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents as he is helped off the stage at a campaign rally in Butler, Pa., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures while surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents as he is helped off the stage at a campaign rally in Butler, Pa., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The White House is seen Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

The White House is seen Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

U.S. Secret Service agents respond as Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded on stage by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

U.S. Secret Service agents respond as Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded on stage by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Law enforcement officers gather at the campaign rally site for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. Trump's campaign said in a statement that the former president was "fine" after a shooting at his rally in Butler (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Law enforcement officers gather at the campaign rally site for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. Trump's campaign said in a statement that the former president was "fine" after a shooting at his rally in Butler (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is covered by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is covered by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

People take cover as U.S. Secret Service agents surround Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump on stage at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

People take cover as U.S. Secret Service agents surround Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump on stage at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden boards Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base, in Dover, Del., Saturday, July 13, 2024. President Biden is returning to Washington earlier than planned following the attack at the Trump rally in Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

President Joe Biden boards Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base, in Dover, Del., Saturday, July 13, 2024. President Biden is returning to Washington earlier than planned following the attack at the Trump rally in Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surround by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surround by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Police snipers return fire after shots were fired while Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump was speaking at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Police snipers return fire after shots were fired while Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump was speaking at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

U.S. Secret Service agents converge to cover Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

U.S. Secret Service agents converge to cover Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is covered by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is covered by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surround by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surround by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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