Before Donald Trump was elected 45th president of the United States, most Americans would probably have said it was almost impossible for that to happen. So imagine what must have been going through the minds of the people who worked for the 44th when it did. What could Barack Obama and his administration—which had worked so long and so hard, guided by a philosophy drastically different than the one that would replace it—have been thinking and doing after Trump’s election?
The Final Year, a new documentary directed by Greg Barker and hitting theaters on January 19, provides at least a partial answer.
The film features comments from people like former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, then-Secretary of State John Kerry and Ben Rhodes, whose title was listed on the White House website as “Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting.” They all took part in the film that documented the final 12 months of the Obama presidency—which meant the cameras were rolling on election night and in the weeks following.
In a clip from the film provided exclusively to Newsweek, we see Kerry and Rhodes coming to terms with what Trump’s victory means—for both the legacy of their work and the American public.
“You think about the people around the country who are afraid. My assistant who works for me is a Muslim who wears a hijab and she was crying for days,” Rhodes says.
Later, he adds, “I cannot stress this enough, there’s no backstop here. I mean, I think people assume, ‘Well there’s some grown up somewhere, right, who will make sure he doesn’t, you know, screw up too bad or something.’ But there’s not.”
Kerry, meanwhile, seems to peer into the future and warn about the incoming president and his administration’s willingness to rely on alternative facts. (Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the new president, coined the phrase in a Meet the Press interview on January 22, 2017.)
“You have a responsibility, morally, to make judgements that are based on facts, not fiction,” Kerry says in a voiceover as he sits behind a desk, picking up the phone, going through files and rubbing his eyes in what appears to be a mix of exhaustion, despair and determination. “I’ll do everything that’s in my power to put that kind of evidence in front of them as they come in.”
Watch the exclusive clip from The Final Year below to go further inside the Obama administration’s reaction to Trump’s victory.