Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from “Guilty as Sin” by Edward Klein.
“After Joe [Biden] and Elizabeth [Warren] turned him down, Barack lived in a state of complete denial,” Valerie Jarrett confided to a close friend. “He dreamed about some fresh face coming out of nowhere, some young and charismatic politician, preferably black, but not necessarily black, someone like him, the way he did back in 2007. But the cavalry never arrived.”
Obama briefly toyed with the idea of supporting Bernie Sanders, either covertly or overtly, in his primary contest against Hillary. Maybe Bernie could motivate Obama’s old coalition and persuade its members to fall in love with him. But Jarrett’s pollsters assured her that that wasn’t possible. The black vote wasn’t going to come out for Bernie. And the idea of Middle America voting for a socialist was a fantasy.
But politics was like the weather—unpredictable—and Obama played in his mind with various scenarios. What if, against the odds, Bernie somehow snatched the nomination away from Hillary at the Democratic National Convention? Or what if Hillary was indicted and the party establishment replaced her as the nominee? Or if Joe Biden changed his mind and parachuted into the convention to accept the nomination and Bernie’s army of supporters bolted and formed a third party?
If any of those “what ifs” happened, the Democrats would almost certainly suffer a crushing defeat at the polls.
And yet, Obama couldn’t bring himself to put aside his feud with the Clintons, accept the inevitable, and endorse Hillary. He wasn’t ready to forgive and forget. As I wrote in “Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas”:
This was a family fight, and as the saying goes, no one fights dirtier or more brutally than blood. Like all family squabbles, this one was about power, money, and primacy. Obama’s legacy hung in the balance. If the Clintons captured control of the Democratic Party and returned to the White House, they would try to expunge much of Obama’s legacy; they would try to make him a historic anomaly—America’s first black president—in a sixteen-year interregnum between the two Clinton regimes.
To someone as vain and self-admiring as Obama, conceding victory to the Clintons would amount to more than a humiliating defeat. It would be political suicide. It was an idea he could not bear.
Late at night in the Family Residence, after Obama had excused himself and gone to bed, Valerie Jarrett and Michelle Obama opened a bottle of Chardonnay and discussed Obama’s turmoil and the toll it was taking on his mind and body.
He was having trouble sleeping. Michelle insisted that he ask his doctor for sleeping pills, which he did. He was prescribed Ambien. He told Michelle that he took the pills, but she didn’t believe him. He was taking Melatonin, which did no good. So, he was tossing and turning in his sleep, and she had to get up and go to the Queen’s Bedroom to sleep.
Michelle was concerned that the president wasn’t getting enough sleep, and that he was struggling at times to stay awake during meetings about subjects that didn’t interest him.
She told Jarrett that she was counting the days until their term in the White House was over. Until then, however, Michelle and Valerie agreed, Barack had to face reality.
He had to take three major actions.
First, he had to swallow his pride and endorse Hillary as the party’s nominee.
Second, he had to rally his coalition of young people, college graduates, African Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities, and persuade them to come out and vote for Hillary.
And third, he had to reverse his position on the FBI investigation of Hillary’s emails, and make Attorney General Loretta Lynch understand that no matter what evidence the FBI turned up, Hillary had to get off without suffering any legal punishment or injury.
“It was up to us—Michelle and I—to persuade him,” Jarrett said, according to the description of her conversation with Michelle that she conveyed to her close friend. “He always listened to us, but we knew that this time it was going to be a hard sell. I hate telling Barack what he doesn’t want to hear. I knew this was going to be the most painful talk I’d ever had with him.”
The next night, they had the talk.
“I felt as though I was forcing Barack to eat a toad,” Jarrett recalled, “but I told him he had no alternative: if he wanted a Democrat to follow him in the White House, he had to endorse Hillary.
“There was a lot of shouting and pacing of the floor and banging of the desk, but after he calmed down, I told him there was something else he had to do,” Jarrett said. “He had to authorize me to tell Lynch that we were doing a one-eighty on Hillary. No indictment, no matter what.”
What if Comey threatened to resign?
In that event, Jarrett said, Obama could give Hillary a pardon.
“A presidential pardon would put an end to the legal process,” Jarrett said.
“That’ll be great for Hillary,” Obama said, “but what about me? I’ll be declaring war on the FBI.”
Excerpted from "Guilty as Sin: Uncovering New Evidence of Corruption and How Hillary Clinton and the Democrats Derailed the FBI Investigation" by Edward Klein (Regnery, October 4, 2016). Reprinted with permission.
Edward Klein is the former foreign editor of Newsweek and former editor of The New York Times Magazine. He is the author of the new book "Guilty As Sin" (Regnery Publishing, October 4).