WASHINGTON, June 16 (Reuters) - Bernie Sanders promised on Thursday to work with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to defeat Republican Donald Trump in the Nov. 8 election, but did not formally pull out of the race for the White House.
Sanders did not endorse Clinton during an online speech to his supporters, but made it clear he was shifting his focus to building a grassroots movement to fight for his liberal policy agenda and transform the Democratic Party.
"The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly, and I personally intend to begin my role in that process in a very short period of time," the U.S. senator from Vermont said.
Sanders on the campaign trail:
Bernie Sanders on the campaign trail
Bernie Sanders on the campaign trail
PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 15: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks to a crowd gathered at the Phoenix Convention Center during a campaign rally on March 15, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona. Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary elections in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, while Missouri and Illinois remain tight races. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - JANUARY 26: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks to the media after holding a campaign event with United Steelworkers Local 310L, on January 26, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. Sanders continues his quest to become the Democratic presidential nominee.. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - US Senator and Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign event at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, January 24, 2016, ahead of the Iowa Caucus. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, participates in the Democratic presidential candidate debate in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016. Hours before Sunday's Democratic debate, the two top Democratic contenders held a warm-up bout of sorts in multiple separate appearances on political talk shows, at a time when the polling gap between the pair has narrowed in early-voting states. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 05: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) shakes hands with supporters after outlining his plan to reform the U.S. financial sector on January 5, 2016 in New York City. Sanders is demanding greater financial oversight and greater government action for banks and individuals that break financial laws. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
LEBANON, NH - NOVEMBER 11: Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) marches in the Veterans Day Parade November 11, 2015 in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Sanders goes into the Democrats second debate this weekend still running strong in the polls.(Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015. While next Tuesday's first Democratic presidential debate will probably lack the name-calling and sharp jabs of the Republican face-offs, there's still potential for strong disagreements between the party's leading contenders. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks about the Workplace Democracy Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on October 6, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US Senator from Vermont and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addresses striking low-wage contract workers from the US Capitol and religious leaders at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, DC, on September 22, 2015 for an interfaith service ahead of the arrival of Pope Francis for a six-day visit to the US. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, NH - SEPTEMBER 19: Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) talks on stage during the New Hampshire Democratic Party State Convention on September 19, 2015 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Five Democratic presidential candidates are all expected to address the crowd inside the Verizon Wireless Arena. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
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"I also look forward to working with Secretary Clinton to transform the Democratic Party so that it becomes a party of working people and young people, and not just wealthy campaign contributors," he said in a speech broadcast from his hometown of Burlington, Vermont.
Sanders, who has resisted pressure from Democrats to exit the White House race and back Clinton since she clinched the party nomination last week, said he would keep fighting for his goals of reducing income inequality, removing big money from politics and reining in Wall Street.
"Defeating Donald Trump cannot be our only goal. We must continue our grassroots efforts to create the America that we know we can become," he said. "And we must take that energy into the Democratic National Convention on July 25 in Philadelphia where we will have more than 1,900 delegates."
Sanders has kept his campaign alive as leverage to force concessions from Clinton on his policy goals during deliberations on the party's issues platform, and on the reforms he seeks in the Democratic Party's nominating process.
But he has laid off some staff, stopped campaigning and dropped plans to court unbound delegates in an unspoken acknowledgment the former secretary of state will be the nominee.
Sanders, who met with Clinton on Tuesday night after the nominating process ended, said he would continue his discussions with her campaign to make certain "the Democratic Party passes the most progressive platform in its history, and that Democrats actually fight for that agenda."
"Our vision for the future of this country is not some kind of fringe idea. It is not a radical idea. It is mainstream. It is what millions of Americans believe in and want to see happen," Sanders said. (Editing by Peter Cooney)