Obama grants Clinton an endorsement, while Sanders vows persistence

JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, President Obama made it official, endorsing Secretary Hillary Clinton to be his choice as the Democratic nominee. The president also met with Senator Bernie Sanders, who didn’t drop out of the race, but did pledge to work toward party unity.

We have our reporters at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue tonight, political director Lisa Desjardins on Capitol Hill, and John Yang at the White House.

So, John, the president was all in today, wasn’t he?

JOHN YANG: Absolutely, Judy.

His aides say he cannot wait to get back out onto the campaign trail. And even though Senator Sanders wants to fight on for one final primary, it’s clear that the delicate dance of joining forces for the fall campaign is under way.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Tens of millions of Americans have made their voices heard. Today, I just want to add mine.
Obama grants Clinton an endorsement, while Sanders vows persistence
JOHN YANG: The president made his formal declaration in a video released by the Clinton campaign.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Look, I know how hard this job can be. That’s why I know Hillary will be so good at it. In fact, I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office.

JOHN YANG: Within minutes, the candidate tweeted her response: “Honored to have you with me. I’m fired up and ready to go.”

It came the same day the president met with Bernie Sanders at the White House. The Vermont senator emerged to say he will press on through next week’s Washington, D.C., primary. While not endorsing Clinton, he promised to work with her in the fall campaign.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, Democratic Presidential Candidate: I look forward to meeting with her in the near future to see how we can work together to defeat Donald Trump.

JOHN YANG: Democrats have begun the delicate process of getting Sanders to stand down without offending his supporters. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid met with the candidate this afternoon.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), Minority Leader: I think he will, of course, be involved in the process of what goes on in coming up with a party platform, processing elections in the future. He’s not holding out for anything, other than what he believes is principled.

Since Tuesday, the president has gone out of his way to praise Sanders, as in a taping last night for NBC’s “Tonight Show” which will air tonight.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It was a healthy thing for the Democratic Party to have a contested primary. I thought that Bernie Sanders brought enormous energy and new ideas, and he pushed the party and challenged them. I thought it made Hillary a better candidate.

JOHN YANG: As in today’s endorsement video, Mr. Obama made note of Sanders’ legions of young voters.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There are millions of Americans, not just Democrats, who’ve cast their ballots for the very first time. And a lot of that is thanks to Senator Bernie Sanders, who has run an incredible campaign.

JOHN YANG: While Sanders ponders his next move, the president will join Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail for the first time next week in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Significantly, that event is the day after the final contest, the D.C. primary. And, tonight, Sanders kicks off his D.C. campaign with a big rally — Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, John, it looks like the White House, the president put a lot of thought, took a lot of care in how they dealt with Bernie Sanders here at the end.

JOHN YANG: As they have said all through this, or today, that they say that Bernie Sanders has earned the right through what he’s done in this campaign season to end this campaign on his own time, on his own schedule. They’re giving him the space to do that.

That endorsement video was taped Tuesday here in the residence of the White House. The plan was always to release it some time after the meeting, and the indications are that the meeting went better than expected, and they actually moved up the release — Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, John, we know the thinking is, I think, among many Democrats that it’s really important they treat Sanders well because of what’s he’s brought to the party.

JOHN YANG: They really do.

You will notice in all the comments, as — that he’s really been praising Sanders for bringing young people in, first-time voters. They want him to keep that up, to keep those people, those young people in the fold, so that they will vote for Hillary Clinton in the fall.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, John at the White House.

And now let’s turn over to Lisa Desjardins, who is at the Capitol.

Lisa, you have been talking to a lot of folks up there today. They were watching all this very closely, weren’t they?

LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right, Judy.

And it looks like the endorsements have not ended yet. An important endorsement is expected tonight. The Boston Globe and others report that Elizabeth Warren is planning to announce her endorsement of Hillary Clinton tonight, her voice so important because Sanders voters may actually respect her voice somewhat more than the president’s.

Tonight, Democrats here feel not just relief, Judy, but they moved right into exuberance, almost, some of them telling that they think, if they can unify the Clinton and Sanders camps, they have a shot at very major gains here at the Capitol.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Bernie Sanders — Lisa, a Bernie Sanders was, as we know, the Democratic socialist member of the Senate from the state of Vermont. He will come back to the Senate in a different place, won’t he? How do members of the Senate Democrats see what he’s done in this campaign?

LISA DESJARDINS: Democrats here in the Senate — I talked to Senator Dick Durbin earlier tonight and he said that he feels that Bernie Sanders really played a key role in marking a major part of the Democratic identity, an important part of the Democratic identity.

And Democrats tonight here in the Senate are both figuratively and literally embracing Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer giving him a hug, one of my colleagues reported seeing earlier tonight. They want him to feel that they have his — that they respect him and that he’s a powerful figure.

But all that said, of course, Judy, the questions remain as to whether he will get what he wants at the convention. All of this good support and nice talk, what does it bring Bernie Sanders in the end? That’s a question for us to watch.

And one other anecdote. Up here at the Capitol, Judy, Republicans, meanwhile, they are not following the kind of choreography we saw from Democrats today. I ran into Ted Cruz coming up alone from the Senate floor today, asked him if he has heard from the Trump campaign, and he said, pause, “I decline to comment on that.”

So, not unity yet in the Republican Party on that front.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Lisa, just quickly, I did want to ask you about that. So, Republicans are not volunteering very much right now about Donald Trump?

LISA DESJARDINS: No, I spoke to several offices today, put in a lot of phone calls to Republican members.

And one after another, they told me, we actually don’t want to talk about Donald Trump right now. They’re in a very difficult position, and they know it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins at the Capitol, John Yang at the White House on a momentous day here in Washington, thank you both.

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