POLITICS AND ELECTION

U.S. President Barack Obama walks with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., down the Colonnade of the White House in Washington, Thursday, June 9, 2016.   

© Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo
U.S. President Barack Obama walks with Democratic presidential
candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., down the Colonnade of the White
House in Washington, Thursday, June 9, 2016.


After meeting with Obama, Sanders said he is looking forward to working with Clinton to defeat Trump in the fall.

Obama offers a formal endorsement of Clinton; president also meets with Sanders

President Obama offered his formal endorsement of Hillary Clinton
with a video Thursday and plans to campaign with the former secretary of
state in Wisconsin next week, efforts aimed at speeding the Democratic
Party’s unification around its presumed presidential nominee.
“I
know how hard this job can be, that’s why I know Hillary will be so good
at it,” Obama says in the video. “In fact I don’t think there’s ever
been someone so qualified to hold this office. She’s got the courage,
the compassion and the heart to get this job done.”
The swift
endorsement came after the president met with Sen. Bernie Sanders at the
White House earlier Thursday and the senator from Vermont indicated he
is preparing to exit the Democratic nominating battle.
Sanders has
been under pressure to stand down and help unify the party after a long
and contentious battle with Clinton for the nomination. Obama’s
endorsement will add to that pressure, although most party leaders,
including the president, have urged that Sanders be allowed to decide
his plans on his own timetable.

We’re sorry, this video cannot be played from your current location.

The president’s decision to move quickly to give his public support to
Clinton indicates his desire to begin to play a more active role in
making the case against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump as
unqualified to be president and to try to rally those who have backed
Sanders behind Clinton’s candidacy. Clinton and Obama will campaign
together in Green Bay, Wis., her campaign confirmed.In an interview with Bloomberg News, timed to correspond with the video’s release, Clinton welcomed Obama endorsement.
“It
just means so much to have a strong, substantive endorsement from the
president. Obviously I value his opinion a great deal personally,”
Clinton said. “It’s just such a treat because over the years of knowing
each other, we’ve gone from fierce competitors to true friends.”
The
news of Obama’s endorsement was greeted with a tweet by Trump: “Obama
just endorsed Crooked Hillary. He wants four more years of Obama—but
nobody else does!”



“Needless
to say, I’m going to do everything in my power, and I’m going to work
as hard as I can, to make sure that Donald Trump does not become
president of the United States,” he told reporters, as his wife, Jane,
stood behind him.
Sanders said he still plans to compete in
Tuesday’s final Democratic primary in the District, but he added that
“in the near future” he hopes to meet with Clinton — who this week
clinched the Democratic nomination — to talk about ways they can work
together.
His comments suggested that Sanders is preparing to exit
the long and grueling presidential race, as long as leading Democrats
make a genuine effort to incorporate his policy ideas into their broader
agenda.
After meeting with Obama, Sanders vows to stay in for D.C. primary
The
hour-long meeting with Obama came on a busy day for Sanders in
Washington, where he also has an early afternoon meeting planned on
Capitol Hill with Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who has
sought to play the role of peace broker at the end of a contentious
nominating contest between Sanders and Clinton.
An afternoon
meeting with Vice President Biden was also added to Sanders’s schedule
for Thursday. The two are set to meet at the vice president’s residence
at the Naval Observatory, said Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs.
“He is seeking out the counsel of people he admires and respects,” Briggs said of Sanders.


Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) (R) enters the Oval Office with President Barack Obama (L) as he arrives at the White House for a meeting June 9, 2016 in Washington, DC. Sanders met with President Obama after Hillary Clinton has clinched the Democratic nomination for president.


© Alex Wong/Getty Images
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) (R) enters
the Oval Office with President Barack Obama (L) as he arrives at the
White House for a meeting June 9, 2016 in Washington, DC. Sanders met…


Before flying back home Thursday night to Burlington, Vt., Sanders plans
to stage the kind of large-scale rally that has become a signature of
his campaign, this one at RFK Stadium in the District.
Sanders
said he would make statehood for the District a major focus of his
campaign here, noting that it has a similar population to Vermont, which
is represented by two senators and a congressman in Washington.
The
rally comes four days ahead of the Democratic primary in the District.
Twenty delegates are in play, but there is little at stake following
Clinton’s clinching of the nomination this week, punctuated by her
decisive win Tuesday in California, the nation’s most populous state.
Sanders
has vowed to stay in the race through the Democratic convention in
July, in a last-ditch bid to win the nomination by flipping the
allegiance of hundreds of superdelegates who have already announced
support for Clinton. A growing number of Sanders’s supporters have
acknowledged that the scenario is far-fetched.
Increasingly,
Sanders’s aim seems to be using the leverage that he and his millions of
loyal followers now have to ensure that his campaign agenda — anchored
around issues of income and wealth inequality — has a central place in
the Democratic Party’s platform and general-election strategy.
[Sanders supporters more open to D.C. primary participation than longer battle against Clinton]
Following
his meeting with Obama, Sanders ticked off several priorities,
including: fighting childhood poverty, expanding Social Security
benefits, reducing college debt, rebuilding the nation’s “crumbling”
infrastructure and making corporations and wealthy individuals pay more
in taxes.
The meetings with Obama and Reid come as a growing
number of Democratic elders are nudging Sanders, with waning subtlety,
to help unify the party around Clinton as she prepares for a nasty and
unpredictable fall campaign against Trump, the Republican real estate
mogul.
A senior administration official said that Obama told
Sanders on Sunday that he was planning to endorse Clinton. The Sanders
campaign asked that Obama wait until after meeting with Sanders,
according to the administration official, who requested anonymity to
speak more freely about private conversations.
The Obama video was taped on Tuesday, before Clinton had claimed victory, according to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
Sanders’s
11:15 a.m. meeting Thursday with Obama was arranged at the senator’s
request, according to the White House, and went longer than scheduled.
Standing
before reporters after his meeting with Obama, Sanders began his
remarks by thanking the president and the vice president “for the degree
of impartiality” they showed throughout the primary after promising to
stay neutral.
“What they said at the beginning is that they would
not put their thumbs on the scale,” he said, “and in fact, they kept
their word, and I appreciate that very, very much.”
After
outlining the movement he has sought to create over the past year,
saying he would continue to push for a more expansive federal government
that would help the poor, senior citizens and young people, Sanders
made clear he sees the Republican nominee as a more serious threat to
U.S. society than seeing his own presidential hopes falter.
“Donald
Trump would clearly, to my mind and to, I think, the majority of
Americans, be a disaster as president of the United States,” he said.
“It is unbelievable to me, and I say this with all sincerity, that the
Republican Party would have a candidate for president, who in the year
2016 makes bigotry and discrimination the cornerstone of his campaign.”
Prior
to the meeting, Obama and Sanders smiled and chatted as they walked
along the White House colonnade Thursday, as a throng of White House
reporters recorded the moment. They then walked into the Oval Office to
have their private meeting.
White House officials said the meeting
was not aimed at pressuring the senator to concede the race, but rather
to discuss Sanders’s priorities and how to best incorporate them into
the broader Democratic agenda.
“This is not a meeting about the
logistics of the path forward, but about the policies and issues the
party should be focused on moving forward,” said White House
communications director Jennifer Psaki.
In an interview Wednesday
taped for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” which will air in
full Thursday night, Obama praised Sanders but also made it clear that
his deliberations over dropping out of the race must end fairly soon.
The president described the contested primary as “healthy,” adding that
he understood why it would take someone time to relinquish their
presidential hopes.
“And I thought Bernie Sanders brought enormous
energy, and his new ideas, and he pushed the party and challenged
them,” the president said. “I thought it made Hillary a better
candidate. I think she is whip-smart. She is tough, and she deeply cares
about working people and putting kids through school and making sure
we’re growing our economy, and so my hope is that over the next couple
of weeks, we’re able to pull things together.”
He noted that the attacks launched during a primary can leave everyone feeling “a little ouchy.”
“So
there’s a natural process of everybody recognizing that this is not
about any individual, but this is about the country and the direction we
want to take it,” he said.
Still, speaking at a fundraiser later
Wednesday evening, Obama made it clear that he sees the race for the
Democratic nomination as over. “Now we just ended, or sort of ended, our
primary season,” prompting laughter from the audience.
The
president and Sanders have had five conversations since January,
according to White House officials, two of which have been in person.
Reid has said that both Sanders and Clinton will have to play a role in forging Democratic unity moving forward.
As
Sanders sat down in Reid’s Capitol suite Thursday afternoon, sitting on
a chair across from Reid by a bookshelf, he sat silent as reporters
asked him about the Obama endorsement.
“Okay you guys, we’re not
going to take any questions,” Reid said as Sanders stared straight ahead
with his hands on his knees. “That’s kind of the deal that I made.”
Sanders
had not spoken to the media since Tuesday afternoon, prior to results
being posted in the six primary states. Most notable in his interactions
with voters, both in California and later with volunteers in Vermont,
has been what has gone unsaid: He has not taken shots at Clinton or even
mentioned her, save for a brief crack Tuesday about whether she
received any votes in California.
Sanders lost four of the six
primaries and caucuses on the calendar on Tuesday, including the two
largest, New Jersey and California. He had hoped to make a real
statement in California by beating Clinton by a sizable margin.
According
to people close to him, battling on was an unsurprising but deeply
personal decision made by Sanders on Tuesday at his hotel in Los Angeles
as the results came in. In spite of the disappointing results and
Clinton’s victory in California and three other states, Sanders remains
convinced that the gains he has made and the movement he has led should
not be quickly discarded in the name of party unity.
Sanders flew
home on Wednesday to Burlington, the city where the self-described
democratic socialist launched his political career and served as mayor
prior to winning a seat in Congress.
After stepping off his
campaign’s chartered flight from Los Angeles, the 74-year-old senator
was greeted by a small crowd of cheering supporters. Sanders raised his
hands in thanks and embraced volunteers who had waited at dusk for hours
to be there. One man implored him, “Do not quit.”
“All right, go home. It’s cold,” Sanders joked.
As Sanders flew to Vermont with his family and staff, a campaign aide ventured to the back of the plane to speak with reporters.
The
aide, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, said the campaign is
preparing to make a major push on shaping the party platform at the
Democratic National Convention next month.
When asked whether
Sanders would be willing to be vetted as a possible vice-presidential
candidate for Clinton, the aide flatly said it is “too premature” to
answer the question.
An hour later, before ducking into a car in
Burlington, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver spoke to reporters and
said the candidate was “upbeat.”
“No one is the nominee. The
nominee is elected at the convention,” Weaver said when asked whether
Sanders will acknowledge Clinton as the Democratic standard-bearer.
When
asked whether Sanders considers her to be the presumptive nominee,
Weaver shook his head. “That’s a term of art that the media uses,” he
said.
“I think he’s very proud of the race that he has run and
rightly so, and the race he continues to run,” he added, noting that
Sanders is focused this week on reaching out to superdelegates and
campaigning in Washington.
Both Weaver and Tad Devine, the campaign’s senior strategist, were on the flight back to Vermont with Sanders on Wednesday.
Devine
is a veteran strategist who has deep Democratic ties and has become his
liaison to some Clinton advisers. As top Democrats approach the Sanders
campaign in this period of positioning and negotiating, Devine is a
point of contact for many of them and is seen as a less combative figure
than Weaver.
Robert Costa, Anne Gearana and Abby Phillip contributed to this report.