Sen. Bernie Sanders met with President Barack Obama on Thursday and said afterward that he would do everything within his power to stop Donald Trump from becoming president — and would work closely with Hillary Clinton to make that happen.
After the meeting with Obama, which lasted more than an hour, Sanders gave no indication that he was ready to leave the race just yet, insisting that he would compete in next week’s primary contest here in Washington. However, he made clear that party unity was on his mind.
“I will work as hard as I can, to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States,” Sanders told reporters, saying the billionaire businessman “makes bigotry and discrimination the cornerstone of his campaign” and would be a “disaster” as commander in chief.
He said he would continue fighting for the issues that animated his campaign, including enhancing Social Security benefits, college affordability and restoring the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
“These are the issues that we will take to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July,” Sanders said, declining to answer reporters’ shouted questions about whether he would leave the race.
The visit came a day after the senator huddled with his team at his headquarters in Vermont to discuss the fate of his candidacy.
Sanders, who requested the meeting with the president, pulled into the White House grounds at 10:56 a.m. after stopping at a nearby Peet’s Coffee for a scone. Obama and Sanders strolled down the colonnade next to the Rose Garden on their way into the Oval Office, chatting inaudibly and grinning broadly. Nearby, a thick line of cameras and cluster of microphones were assembled in the driveway outside the West Wing, where journalists peppered the Vermont senator with questions.
Obama was trying to negotiate, however gently, with him to exit the Democratic race without inflicting damage on efforts to unite the party.
“My hope is, is that over the next couple of weeks, we’re able to pull things together,” Obama said during a taping of an appearance on the “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” on Wednesday in New York. “There’s a natural process of everybody recognizing that this is not about any individual.”
After his meeting with Obama, Sanders planned to head across town to see Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader. While the two men are old friends, the conversation could be somewhat awkward as the minority leader has endorsed Clinton and said publicly that Sanders should prepare to leave the race.
“Sometimes you just have to give up,” Reid said last week.
Sanders was also scheduled to meet with Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York while in Washington.
After Clinton won Tuesday’s California primary, Sanders refused to quit the race, despite Clinton’s wide margin of victory and the fact that she had won enough pledged delegates for the nomination. But some of his supporters have started to walk away, prompting growing calls that it is time to bring the party together to defeat Trump, the presumptive Republican candidate.
On Wednesday, Sanders sent out a fundraising email asking for contributions of $2.70. On Thursday evening, he will hold a rally outside RFK Stadium in Washington, where he will discuss his plans for getting big money out of politics and making public universities tuition-free.
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