During a meeting at the White House Thursday morning, Vermont senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders thanked President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for maintaining impartiality during the primary process, and said he would meet with rival Hillary Clinton soon to discuss ways to defeat Donald Trump.
Sanders had requested to meet with Obama to discuss going forward in the Democratic primary now that Clinton clinched the party's nomination earlier this week and became the first woman to lead a major US party as its presidential nominee. Sanders is facing increased pressure from Democrats to bow out of the presidential race and throw his support behind Clinton to focus on the general election fight.
Speaking at the White House following his meeting, Sanders praised Obama and Biden for not thumbing the scales by endorsing a candidate during the primary season, and said he "looks forward to meeting with her in the near future to see how we can work together to defeat Donald Trump."
Despite Clinton's commanding victories in the California and New Jersey primaries on Tuesday, Sanders refused to end his presidential bid before the Democratic National Convention in July, when the party's nominee is formally chosen.
The Vermont senator will meet with Reid, his Senate colleague, in the afternoon, followed by a campaign rally in the evening.
The Sanders campaign, which waged an unexpectedly strong challenge to a better-known and better-funded Democrat, has decried what it called Clinton's anointment by the party establishment and the media. The campaign sent an email to supporters Wednesday morning titled: "The struggle continues," even as The New York Times reported that the senator had plans to let at least half of his campaign staff go as early as Wednesday.
"Next Tuesday we continue the fight. We are going to fight hard to win the primary in Washington, DC and then we take our fight for social, economic, racial, and environmental justice to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania," Sanders said in the email. "I am pretty good at arithmetic, and I know that the fight in front of us is a very, very steep fight, but we will continue to fight for every vote and every delegate we can get."
In an interview taped Wednesday on NBC's "Tonight" show, Obama said he hoped that divisions between Democrats would start to heal in coming weeks now that Clinton has clinched the party's nomination.
At a fundraiser in New York City on Wednesday, Obama said he was not too worried about bruised feelings after the primary and said "it was a healthy thing for the Democratic Party to have a contested primary."
Obama also praised Sanders for bringing new energy and ideas to the party.
"He pushed the party and challenged them," he said. "I thought it made Hillary a better candidate."
Democrats are striking a delicate balance between the need to unite behind Clinton in the looming battle against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, and not alienating Sanders and his supporters.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, herself a progressive known as a fiery critic of Wall Street, is preparing to endorse Clinton in the coming weeks, after staying neutral in the Democratic primary.