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Obama urged Clinton to concede on election night

The Hill The Hill 27/11/2016 Amie Parnes
Trump could punish Hillary Clinton with kindness © Provided by The Hill Hillary Clinton

President Barack Obama called Hillary Clinton to persuade her to concede the White House on election night, according to a forthcoming book on Clinton's defeat.

Authors Amie Parnes, The Hill's senior White House correspondent, and Jonathan Allen cite three Clintonworld sources familiar with the election-night request in the unreleased book from Crown Publishing.

"You need to concede," Obama told his former secretary of State as she, her family, and her top aides continued to watch results trickle in from the key Rust Belt states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The latter state, called after 1:30 a.m. by The Associated Press, was the clear tipping point for the White House race, ensuring Trump would crest over the 270 electoral-vote threshold needed to win.

Clinton ultimately heeded Obama's advice and called Trump to acknowledge her defeat in the early morning hours Wednesday.

White House officials did not immediately return requests for comment Friday.

Obama's call left a sour taste in the mouths of some Clinton allies who believe she should have waited longer, and there's now a fight playing out between the Obama and Clinton camps over whether to support an effort to force the Rust Belt states to recount their votes.

Inside Clinton's room at the Peninsula Hotel in Manhattan, where aides were on the phone with boiler rooms at the campaign headquarters in Brooklyn and the Clintons' midtown office, there was still hope as election night stretched on. Their goal was to hold off as long as possible.

Obama's call changed that.

"There was a lot of discussion about Michigan and Wisconsin and whether the numbers could flip it," said one of the sources, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity. This source said the final numbers were so close that Clinton might not have placed her call to Trump without a push.

"If anybody knew what actually happened that night, no one would have conceded," the source said.

At the time, campaign Chairman John Podesta, a former Obama White House official, had been dispatched to Clinton's victory party at the Jacob Javits Center to deliver an anodyne statement leaving the result of the election unaddressed.

Before he returned, Clinton put an end to the debate among her inner circle by asking to talk to Trump.

"Just give me the phone," she said in frustration. "I'm calling him."

One of the Clintonworld sources said the campaign apparatus and the Democratic National Committee don't want to be officially affiliated with the push to re-tabulate votes because of the bad political optics of seeking to overturn the election results. At the same time, some of Clinton's allies are hopeful that Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who has raised several million dollars to fund recalculations, will be successful.

Stein officially filed a recount request in Wisconsin Friday afternoon, and her campaign has said she hopes to also push through recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania. The Wisconsin Elections Commission said it has a Dec. 13 deadline to complete the recount of more than 2.9 million votes.

Podesta and Clinton campaign lawyer Marc Elias held a conference call last week with activists who believe it's possible the outcomes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania were tampered with, according to New York Magazine.

But Obama allies are dead-set against the multi-state recount effort. Former Obama White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer mocked it on Twitter:

"The amount of Democratic energy and money being wasted on recounts instead of trying to win the Louisiana Senate Race is mind boggling," he tweeted on Thursday.

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