Friday 28 October 2016

'I'm ready to pass the baton' - Obama praises Hilary Clinton just hours after FBI probe

Julie Pace and Kathleen Hennessey

Published 06/07/2016 | 07:28

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at a campaign event at the Charlotte Convention Centre in North Carolina (AP)
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at a campaign event at the Charlotte Convention Centre in North Carolina (AP)

Barack Obama praised Hillary Clinton's judgment just hours after his FBI director blasted her handling of classified material.

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The president appeared for the first time on the campaign trail with his former secretary of state and declared: "I'm ready to pass the baton.

"I'm here today because I believe in Hillary Clinton. I have had a front-row seat to her judgment and her commitment."

The energetic Obama-Clinton appearance in North Carolina was a show of Democratic unity in a state Mrs Clinton is hoping to take back for the party.

But the moment was not what her campaign and the White House imagined during the long primary season.

Shortly before the president and his would-be successor flew to Charlotte together, FBI Director James Comey announced he would not recommend charges against Mrs Clinton for her email practices.

But that was only after he presented a searing description of her "extremely careless" handling of classified information that ensured the matter will not be going away.

The White House declined to comment on Mr Comey's findings, saying the investigation was not formally closed and it did not want to appear to be influencing prosecutors.

Still, the timing of the trip pulled the president into a controversy he has at times tried to keep at arm's length. His appearance with Mrs Clinton was a reminder that it was his appointee who declined to pursue criminal charges.

The duo flew to Charlotte together on Air Force One, and they rode to the rally together in Mr Obama's armoured limousine, known as "The Beast".

Welcomed by a screaming crowd of supporters, the president led chants of "Hillary!" as they stood onstage under banners reading "Stronger Together".

He declared: "There has never been any man or woman more qualified for this office than Hillary Clinton, ever. And that's the truth. That's the truth."

Referring back to their own bruising primary battle in 2008, Mr Obama said: "We may have gone toe to toe, from coast to coast, but we stood shoulder to shoulder for the ideals that we share."

Mrs Clinton's Republican rival Donald Trump claimed the joint appearance was an example of a "rigged" political system.

"It was no accident that charges were not recommended against Hillary the exact same day as President Obama campaigns with her for the first time," he said.

Press Association

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