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Sanders just formally endorsed Clinton in a show of unity against Trump

The highly-anticipated endorsement came two weeks out from the Democratic National Convention.

by Liz Fields
Jul 11 2016, 6:40pm

Hillary Clinton y Bernie Sanders en Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Julio 12 2016. Imagen por Brian Snyder/Reuters.

If there's anything that could bring Democrats together, it's a mutual distaste for Donald Trump. The billionaire real estate mogul and presumptive GOP nominee has in recent weeks unwittingly helped build the foundations of the budding alliance between Hillary Clinton and progressive darling Elizabeth Warren, and now has once again proved again to be the driver behind Clinton's efforts to bond with her Democratic primary rival Bernie Sanders.

On Tuesday, Sanders extended a long-awaited olive branch to the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, announcing his formal endorsement of Clinton at a campaign event in New Hampshire. One of the main themes of the event: Trump bashing.

"Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nominating process and I congratulate her for that," Sanders said at Portsmouth High School. "She will be the Democratic nominee for president and I intend to do everything I can to make certain that she will be the next president of the United States."

"While Donald Trump is busy insulting Mexicans, Muslims, women, African Americans and veterans, Hillary Clinton understands that our diversity is one of our greatest strengths," Sanders said according to a prepared statement.

The endorsement comes a week after the Federal Bureau of Investigation recommended no charges be brought against Clinton over her use of a private email server for official State Department correspondence, and less than two weeks out from the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia, where Clinton will formally become the party's standard bearer.

Despite decisive losses in the California and New Jersey primary contests in June, Sanders had resisted standing behind Clinton — to praise from his most ardent supporters, including members of the Bernie or Bust movement, but to the disdain of many Clinton backers and others eager to start unifying the party ahead of the convention.

On the stump in the past month, Clinton has made pointed remarks about her endorsement of Obama just days after the primary contest wrapped up in 2008. But Sanders has held out his support for weeks, even as figures such as Warren, a senator from Massachusetts, and Obama rallied behind the presumptive Democratic nominee in June.

The location of their first appearance together is also significant. Sanders won New Hampshire by 60 to 38 percent of the Democratic vote in February, when his insurgent and primarily grassroots-funded campaign posed the biggest threat to Clinton's widely expected nomination.

"I am proud of the campaign we ran here in New Hampshire and across the country. Our campaign won the primaries and caucuses in 22 states," Sanders said Tuesday. "But it is not enough to win the nomination. Secretary Clinton goes into the convention with 389 more pledged delegates than we have, and a lot more superdelegates.

The crowd in Portsmouth cheered enthusiastically throughout Sanders's speech. Among the sea of supporters holding placards reading "stronger together" — the slogan that the candidates rallied under Tuesday — a few held signs that read "Bernie or Bust".

Ahead of the speech, some Sanders supporters have indicated they will accept the senator's decision to support Clinton, and will continue to advance his campaign's key policies, particularly on issues such as income inequality and criminal justice reform.

"The political revolution was never about Bernie Sanders alone," Moumita Ahmed, a Sanders delegate from New York and organizer for the grassroots group People for Bernie, told VICE News. "Ultimately it was about the issues that affect millions of Americans living in poverty who want the government to work for them instead of the 1 percent."

"Bernie was just one candidate and now thanks to him we have thousands confident to run for office on our platform," she added. "We will continue to support anyone who takes on Bernie's platform."

Related: 'We Made History': Hillary Clinton Declares Victory

Ahead of the convention, which will take place from July 25 to 29, representatives from both campaigns and other party members have met to hash out specific policies that will be included in the draft Democratic Platform — a document that lays out the priorities and guidelines meant to govern the party for the next four years.

The Sanders campaign over the weekend announced it had scored some wins on proposed amendments including doubling the federal minimum wage to $15, a policy the Vermont senator has pushed since the inception of his campaign. Clinton had previously advocated for a $12 minimum wage.

Campaign representatives also agreed to what Sanders' policy director Warren Gunnels called "the most aggressive plan to combat climate change," over the weekend. The amendment includes a mandate to assess damage to the climate when evaluating any future fossil fuel pipeline projects. It also includes anti-fracking provisions.

"While the plan does not ban fracking nationally as Sanders has called for, it will significantly limit fracking by forcing companies to disclose the chemicals they pump into the ground by eliminating the Halliburton Loophole," Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said in a statement. "It also protects the right of states and localities to ban fracking."

Other amendments include proposals to ban private prisons, calling for the Justice Department to investigate all police officer-involved shootings, abolish the death penalty, instate a "modern Glass-Steagall Act" that would reintroduce a wall between commercial and investment banking, and expand Social Security and health care.

But there has also been some give and take, with the Sanders campaign failing to pass pro-Palestinian language that called for "an end to [Israeli] occupation and illegal settlements." A proposal to overturn Citizens United, the Supreme Court verdict that dissolved restrictions on corporate money in politics, and plan to cap campaign donations at $100 were also beaten back.

"It is no secret that Hillary Clinton and I disagree on a number of issues. That's what this campaign has been about. That's what democracy is about," Sanders said Tuesday. "But I am happy to tell you that at the Democratic Platform Committee ... there was a significant coming together between the two campaigns and we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party."

Related: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton Talk Truce After She Wins Final Primary

Whether the agreed-upon goals are written in law and ultimately adopted in following years is a different concern — one that Sanders acknowledged in a statement Sunday.

"While we have made great progress in the Democratic platform advancing the issues that have inspired millions of Americans in this campaign, the fight is just beginning," he said. "We must ensure that progress for working families in America does not end on the pages of the Democratic platform but becomes reality."