WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders rejected a movement to draft him into starting a new political party, telling "Meet The Press" on Sunday that his focus right now is on the Democratic Party as a whole.
"Right now I am working to bring fundamental reform to the Democratic Party, to open the door to the Democratic Party," said Sanders, who lost the Democratic presidential nomination to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last year.
A group of former staff members and delegates for Sanders launched an effort last week called "Draft Bernie for A People's Party," which they called a "nationwide effort" to convince the senator "to found a new party rooted in the progressive principles that awoke a political revolution during his campaign for the presidency."
As the White House examines their options after a federal appeals panel kept the halt of their immigration executive order in place, Sanders was asked about whether he believes current procedures to let refugees and other people in the country should be improved.
"Vetting mechanisms we have now are very, very strong," he said, but added that he's open to hearing more from anyone who has a better idea to make them stronger. "I don't think there's any debate whether you're progressive, conservative, or anybody else that we want to keep the United States safe."
However, Sanders referred to the Trump administration's immigration policies as "racist" and "based on anti-Muslim ideology." He then called White House Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller's comments about the immigration order in the "Meet the Press" appearance before him a "shell game" and a distraction from what he said was the president "backtracking on every economic promise that he made to the American people."
"He was going to clean the swamp, remember that? Guess who is running the swamp right now. The same exact Wall Street guys from Goldman Sachs who were there in the past," specially referring to President Trump's chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, who was previously the president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs.
The Vermont senator doubled down on referring to the president as a "pathological liar," and asked whether he can work with a pathological liar, he said, "it makes life very difficult ... it is very harsh but that's the truth."
Sanders called the protests continuing to swell up around the country "a spontaneous and grassroots uprising among the American people," repeating that he felt it was an opportunity to usher in an increasingly progressive ideology within the Democratic Party.
But catering to the party's liberal base and focusing on sheer resistance won't help the party in the long run, former Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., argued on Sunday's "Meet The Press."
Webb has been quite optimistic about what the Trump administration could accomplish, recently writing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal saying the president is "positioned to bring two much-needed adjustments to our governing process."
He felt Democrats are too preoccupied with opposing the president and winning election in 2018 that "they don't have a message."
"There is a campaign going on on the Hill and in academia to personally discredit not only Donald Trump but the people who are around him," Webb said, predicting that the end result will slow down the governing process and "there will not be a record of accomplishment in that."
Over the last few years, he said, the Democratic Party has "moved very far to the left."
Webb on Sunday would not say whether he still even considers himself a Democrat. "I'm not in the system right now," he said.
Webb pointed out that he did not endorse Hillary Clinton before the election and would not confirm who he voted for, saying only, "I'm comfortable with my vote and my vote is private to me."