Barack Obama has in recent months met with at least nine prospective 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Deval Patrick, pulling them in for one-on-one sessions at his Washington office.
All the meetings were arranged quietly, without even some close advisers to the people involved being told of the conversations, in part because of how much Obama bristles at his private meetings becoming public knowledge. All have been confirmed to POLITICO by multiple people who have been briefed on the secretive sit-downs.
The meetings have been at Obama's personal office on the third floor of the World Wildlife Fund building in D.C.'s West End neighborhood, and they show how a stream of ambitious, searching politicians are looking for guidance and support from the man who has remained the reluctant leader of the Democratic Party, eager to be involved, though not directly. He's not making any promises of support, though, and is not expected to endorse in the 2020 race until after a nominee has emerged.
Obama so far has avoided direct conflict with President Donald Trump — save for a few public statements criticizing his moves attempting to dismantle the Iran nuclear deal, Obamacare and the protection program for Dreamers, though without naming Trump.