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US President Joe Biden speaks to members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) at the UAW National Training Center, in Warren, Michigan, on February 1, 2024.
Washington CNN  — 

Senior Biden administration officials are expected to meet with members of the Arab American and Muslim community in Michigan on Thursday, four sources familiar with planning told CNN.

The senior officials represent some of Biden’s most trusted advisers and policymakers. A list of attendees shared first with CNN includes United States Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power, principal deputy national security adviser Jon Finer, Office of Public Engagement director Steve Benjamin, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs director Tom Perez, White House liaison to American Muslim Communities Mazen Basrawi, as well as aides Jamie Citron and Dan Koh.

The meetings come as Biden is grappling with growing discontent within his own party over his handling of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Michigan is home to one of the nation’s largest populations of Arab Americans and Muslims and there is concern among Democrats that alienating that key group could hurt the president in a battleground state that was crucial to his 2020 win and is expected to be close again in November.

Power has been among the top US officials who have been publicly confronted about the administration’s position toward Gaza.

At a public speech last week, one questioner – who identified herself as a USAID contractor – pressed Power on the loss of the US’ ability “to be moral leaders” due to the “US-funded genocide in Gaza.” Another person interrupted her speech to raise the humanitarian toll of the war.

Power pointed to US efforts to expand the flow of resources to Gaza as she said that many families are “living in unimaginable conditions.”

“In addition, of course, the greatest loss of life has come from the war itself and from the bombing, and more than 25,000 civilians have been killed. There is not a single call that President Biden makes, or engagement that anybody in the Biden administration does, that doesn’t put the importance of civilian protection and international humanitarian law at the top of the conversation,” she said.

The group of officials will be meeting with local leaders to discuss the conflict and discuss other important issues for the community, a White House official said, part of ongoing communication and outreach between the White House and Muslim and Arab American leaders both in Michigan and across the country.

The Muslim American vote could prove critical in battleground Michigan. At least 146,620 of the 200,000 Muslim American voters in Michigan cast a ballot in the 2020 election cycle, according to an analysis by Emgage, an organization aimed at boosting the Muslim American vote.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters last week that senior administration officials intended to travel to Michigan in February “to hear directly from community leaders on a range of issues that are important to them and their families, including the conflict in Israel and Gaza.”

The meeting comes just weeks after Biden’s campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez traveled to Michigan to meet with local community leaders, including members of the Arab American and Muslim community. This included meetings with Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian American women to serve in Congress who has been critical of Biden’s handling of the war, and Osama Siblani, the founder and publisher of The Arab American News.

But one sit-down, which was expected to include roughly a dozen Arab American, Muslim and Palestinian leaders and activists, was called off at the last minute when invitees declined to attend. At the time, some who were invited expressed frustration that the Biden team sent a campaign official instead of White House officials to meet with the community.

On Wednesday, as part of a new “Listen to Michigan” campaign, more than 30 Michigan officials pledged to vote “uncommitted” in their state’s Democratic presidential primary on February 27.

“Our government has failed to act in the best interests of the lives of innocent men, women, and children, and worse yet, have suggested that there is an exception to the rule when it comes to Palestinian lives,” said Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, who signed the pledge. “This matter has a direct impact on our Dearborn community, and more importantly, on each of us as human beings. We intend to make our voices heard in the presidential primary.”

A recent CNN poll found 34% of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the war between Israel and Hamas. About half of Democrats - 51% - say they approve of his handling of the Israel-Hamas war; among Democrats younger than 45, that falls to just 35%.

The meeting also comes at a critical moment in the war as Hamas has responded to hostage negotiations. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in the region this week for a series of high-stakes meetings.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.