WASHINGTON — Bernie Sanders on Thursday emerged from a White House meeting with President Barack Obama and vowed to work together with Hillary Clinton to defeat Donald Trump in November.
Warning that a Trump presidency would be a “disaster,” the Vermont senator — who pledged to continue his White House bid even after Clinton became the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee — said he would “work as hard as I can to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the Untied States.”
“Donald Trump would clearly, to my mind and I think the majority of Americans, be a disaster as president of the United States. It is unbelievable to me, and I say this in 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. In my view the American people will not vote for or tolerate a candidate who insults Mexicans and Latinos, who insults muslims, who insults African-Americans and women. Needless to say, I am going to do everything in my power — and I will work as hard as I can to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States.”
“I look forward to meeting with (Clinton) in the near future to see how we can work together to defeat Donald Trump and to create a government which represents all of us and not just the 1 percent,” Sanders told reporters after an Oval Office meeting that lasted more than one hour.
The senator thanked both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for showing “impartiality” during the course of the Democratic campaign.
“They said in the beginning is that they would not put their thumb on the scales and they kept their word and I appreciate that very, very much,” Sanders said.
He added that he will monitor a “full counting of the votes” in California, where Clinton won the Democratic primary contest on Tuesday. The results will show “a much closer vote,” Sanders predicted.
Sanders’ high-profile meeting with Obama and his public remarks afterward come just days after Sanders declared that he intends to continue his 2016 campaign.
At a rally Tuesday night, Sanders had declined to acknowledge that Clinton had secured the necessary delegates to win her party’s nomination. He vowed to forge ahead to the District of Columbia’s primary next week, and then on to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
This decision has put Democrats on high alert, as they look to quickly change gears and take on Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
The Sanders-Obama meeting Wednesday marked the two men’s second White House sitdown this primary season and the fourth time they’ve spoken in the last month. Aides said Obama would work to move Sanders toward an acceptance of Clinton as the nominee.
Senior Democrats say it’s unlikely Obama will make any joint appearances with Clinton before next week’s primary, the final nominating contest this year. However, a formal Obama endorsement could come earlier — perhaps as early as Thursday.
Thursday has the potential to shed even more light on the senator’s intentions and state of mind as the general election kicks off in earnest.
An aide to Biden says the vice president “plans on speaking to both (Clinton and Sanders) in the near future,” but Biden was not be at the Sanders-Obama meeting. He also won’t offer any endorsement before those conversations, the aide said.
White House officials hoped Obama could prod the Vermont senator toward eventually acting as a unifying figure for the Democratic Party.
“My hope is, is that over the next couple of weeks, we’re able to pull things together,” Obama told Jimmy Fallon during a taping of “The Tonight Show” Wednesday. “The main role I’m gonna be playing in this process is — to remind the American people that this is a serious job. You know, this is not reality TV. I’ve seen the decisions that have to be made. And the work that has to be done. And I have a lot of confidence that if the American people are reminded of what’s at stake and all the incredible important issues that we gotta get right, that they’re gonna make a good choice. That’s what they usually do.”
Sanders will also meet in the afternoon with his long-time friend and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who has publicly said Sanders should “give up.”
Reid wants to listen to what Sanders has to say and is not interested in strong-arming his colleague, according to a source familiar with Reid’s thinking. The source added that Reid believes Sanders can be helpful in Senate races, including in raising money, and is open to any number of ways to unite the party.
In the evening, Sanders will attend a campaign rally in Washington.