Bernie Sanders signaled a formal endorsement of Hillary Clinton is imminent, saying in an interview that Republican Donald Trump is “a pathological liar” and that he’ll throw his full support behind electing his rival for the Democratic nomination as president.
“We have got to do everything that we can to defeat Donald Trump and elect Hillary Clinton,” the Vermont senator said in an interview Thursday with Bloomberg’s Albert R. Hunt for PBS’s “Charlie Rose” program. “I don’t honestly know how we would survive four years of a Donald Trump” as president.
The endorsement, which may come as soon as next week, would provide a long-awaited unity moment for party members frustrated by Sanders’ lingering campaign. Sanders has spent the weeks since Clinton clinched the nomination in early June working to influence the party’s governing agenda.
Sanders expressed satisfaction with the progress of policy and party platform talks between his campaign and Clinton’s, even as some positions on issues such as trade and fracking remain unresolved. “At the end of the day we’re going to be united,” he said.
At the same time, Sanders indicated he may remain a thorn in the side of Democratic leaders, seeking to use the Democratic platform to block a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership during the congressional session after the election but before lawmakers are sworn in for the next term. That would be a direct rebuke of President Barack Obama, who’s made the trade deal a centerpiece of his Asia strategy.
“I had the impression that we live in a democratic society,” Sanders said, adding that while he respects the president “he’s not right all of the time.”
Clinton announced Thursday she would campaign July 12 in New Hampshire, the same state where she gave her endorsement to Obama in 2008.
Sanders declined to say whether he could embrace Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, whom many Sanders supporters see as too accommodating of Wall Street, if Clinton taps Kaine as her running mate. “I know Tim; Tim is a very decent guy,” Sanders said.
“I happen to believe that we should have as our vice presidential nominee a very strong progressive voice, somebody who has a history of standing up to big money interests, somebody who is gonna fight for the working families of this country and who has a history of doing that,” Sanders said. He declined to say whether Kaine meets that test. “I don’t want to comment on Tim Kaine.”
Sanders didn’t hesitate when asked if another potential Clinton running mate, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, meets the test.
“I would be pleased” if Clinton chooses Warren, Sanders said, calling her “one of the outstanding members of the United States Senate.”
“She has a life history of standing up to powerful special interests.”
Asked whether FBI Director James Comey’s critique of Clinton’s e-mail practices could have made a difference in the outcome of the Democratic primary, Sanders said, simply, “I have no idea.” He said he disagrees with calls by House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans to deny intelligence briefings to Clinton, as are customary for presidential nominees, in light of concerns about her use of private e-mail while she was secretary of state.
Sanders said Clinton’s e-mail practices remain a “relevant issue” for voters as do questions about Trump’s business background and practices. At the same time, he said, both are less important than the shrinking of the middle class in the U.S., and he criticized the media’s focus on superficial issues that he said took time and attention away from the country’s biggest challenges.
Sanders dodged questions about when he would endorse Clinton, but confirmed that the endorsement will come once the two campaigns reach a consensus on certain policy disagreements. “We are working together to see how we can be most effective, in terms of coming together on issues, and in running the kind of campaign that needs to be run, to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president,” Sanders said.
In a show of respect for Sanders, Clinton this week embraced a plan to make in-state, public college tuition free for families earning up to $125,000 per year, moving her closer to Sanders’ call for free college tuition for all Americans.
A draft of the party’s platform that will be presented to delegates at the Democratic convention later this month in Philadelphia also reflects the influence of Sanders by taking a sharp leftward turn from 2012 on a range of issues, from regulation and taxes to support for a $15 minimum wage. Sanders called it “the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.”
Sanders also said he wants to see Democratic primaries opened to independents and that “we should take a look at the caucuses” to find a way to make them more accessible to working-class people, perhaps with a compromise allowing a daylong process to cast a vote while retaining a later portion of the caucus for those who want to debate and be swayed.
Sanders said the important issue is not when he will endorse Clinton, but “how we work together, how we rally the American people, how we address the major crises that we face, and how we go on to transform America.”
Sanders indicated he would discourage his supporters from voting for a third-party candidate, be it Jill Stein of the Green Party or Libertarian Gary Johnson. “What I’m going to say to them is, this country faces enormous crises” and Trump would be a disaster as president.
“Look, you’re talking to somebody who is the longest-serving independent in the history of the United States Congress,” he said. “And I understand where people are coming from.”