Clinton and Sanders discuss possible alliance against Trump

Private meeting held in Washington as Clinton wins final Democratic primary ballot

Democratic rivals Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders met for the first time since the former US secretary of state became her party's apparent presidential nominee as she won the final contest in the party's primary election.

Mrs Clinton met her dogged competitor at a hotel in Washington last night as she was declared the winner of the Democratic primary ballot in the District of Columbia, the final popular vote in the party’s race to pick a presidential candidate ahead of next month’s national convention.

The meeting marks the start of discussions between the candidates on how they might unify the party and to campaign against the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump up to the November election.

Mrs Clinton (68) is reported to have asked Mr Sanders what he would want in return for his endorsement and whether he would seek policy concessions or political promises, her campaign aides told US media.

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The Vermont senator (74) overwhelmingly won the support of young voters, a key demographic for his rival in the general election, with a populist campaign that electrified grassroots progressives and liberals.

While the meeting is a first sign at the end of a hard-fought 14-month primary battle that Mr Sanders may be moving to support Mrs Clinton in the general election against Mr Trump, the Vermont senator made no reference in his campaign statement about conceding the race to his rival.

The two candidates "had a positive discussion about how best to bring more people into the political process and about the dangerous threat that Donald Trump poses to our nation," the Sanders campaign spokesman Michael Briggs said.

“Sanders congratulated Secretary Clinton on the campaign she has run and said he appreciated her strong commitment to stopping Trump in the general election,” Mr Briggs said in his statement.

They discussed issues where they are seeking agreement such as raising the minimum wage, universal healthcare and making college affordable.

“Sanders and Clinton agreed to continue working to develop a progressive agenda that addresses the needs of working families and the middle class, and adopting a progressive platform for the Democratic national convention,” said the statement.

The meeting was attended by the Vermont senator's wife Jane Sanders, one of his political advisers, and his campaign manager Jeff Weaver. John Podesta, Mrs Clinton's campaign chairman, and Robby Mook, her campaign manager, also attended.

Earlier on Tuesday Mr Sanders skirted questions about what steps he might take next and why he was refusing to endorse Mrs Clinton.

Despite his loss in the Democratic primary, the self-professed democratic socialist has vowed to take his campaign all the way to the party's convention in Philadelphia at the end of next month.

Last week, in the final day of multi-state ballots, Mrs Clinton won enough delegates to be confirmed as the Democratic nominee at the convention next month. Her victory in Washington will give her an additional boost heading into the five-month general election.

Winning the Washington DC primary with 79 per cent of the vote, Mrs Clinton emerges from the primary with a total of 2,800 convention delegates, comprising 2,219 pledged delegates and 581 super-delegates - well in excess of the 2,383 delegates she required to secure the nomination.

Mr Sanders finished the primary, trailing her by almost 1,000 delegates, with 1,832 pledged delegates and 49 super-delegates - party leaders and elected officials - according to a tally kept by the Associated Press.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent