Barack Obama doesn’t want his post-presidency to be all about Donald Trump, but he knows some of it’s going to have to be.
Trump’s win upended his plans for life after leaving office, and people who’ve been talking to him say he’s been quietly sorting out how to honor the tradition of withholding criticism of his successor as he also considers how best to salvage his legacy and rebuild his party.
“The way he views his role is not that he himself, Barack Obama, is going to be out there giving fiery speeches and leading marches, but he wants to play a role in empower and lifting up the next generation of leaders,” said Jen Psaki, his White House communications director and an alum of both his presidential campaigns.
Already, former aides are revamping Organizing for Action, the group formed out of his old campaign structure. No longer about backing up Obama’s agenda in the White House, it will be a nexus for training activists and candidate recruitment, reshaped both by Trump’s win and some of the factors that contributed to Hillary Clinton’s loss.
Though OFA has been mostly quiet over the last two months and made no formal announcements, its Chicago headquarters has been filling up with new hires, including several old campaign aides, who are planning to focus on the mechanics of campaigns, from running Obama-style persuasion programs, integrating data and running paid canvassing operations. Though the first goal is designing the program for what they’ll aim to make hundreds of workshops nationwide, there’s already talk moving toward endorsing candidates.
And Obama has identified a few issues that would draw him out directly: a Muslim ban, though he still considers the chances of that remote, or moves that would cut back on the protections he put in place for the children, known as “dreamers,” who were brought to the country illegally as minors and who’ve been living here since.
“If he deports thousands of kids,” Obama has said several times in private meetings of late, according to people present, “I don’t know that I can sit on the sidelines.”
Also potentially on the list: a move by Trump to unravel the Iran deal or the Paris climate accord, or the shape of…