After savaging President Barack Obama before and during his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump met him in person for the first time on Thursday and said he had “great respect” for him. President Barack Obama called his conversation with President-elect Trump excellent.
The two spent roughly an hour and a half together in the Oval Office. Obama invited his successor in order to facilitate a successful transition between our presidencies.
As I said last night, my No. 1 priority in the coming two months is to try to facilitate a transition that ensures our president-elect is successful, Obama said. I have been very encouraged by the, I think, interest in President-elect Trump's wanting to work with my team around many of the issues that this great country faces. And I believe that it is important for all of us, regardless of party and regardless of political preferences, to now come together, to work together.
Obama said the two spoke about organizational issues, as well as foreign and domestic policy.
I want to emphasize to you as president-elect, Obama said, speaking to Trump, that we are now going to want to do everything to help you succeed, because if you succeed, the country succeeds.
Trump said, “Well, thank you very much, President Obama. This was a meeting that was going to last for maybe 10 or 15 minutes, and we were just going to get to know each other. We had never met each other. I have great respect. The meeting lasted for almost an hour and a half. And it could have — as far as I’m concerned, it could have gone on for a lot longer.
“We really — we discussed a lot of different situations, some wonderful and some difficulties. I very much look forward to dealing with the President in the future, including counsel. He explained some of the difficulties, some of the high-flying assets and some of the really great things that have been achieved.
“So, Mr. President, it was a great honor being with you, and I look forward to being with you many, many more times in the future.”
The tensions remaining from the bitter campaign were obvious — from the body language between Trump and Obama to the lack of a photo with the incoming and departing president and their wives.
In 2008, President George Bush and his wife, Laura, and the Obamas posed in front of the White House in their first joint visit.
This is the first time Obama and Trump have met face to face, according to a White House official. Their last interaction was at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in 2011, when Obama relentlessly mocked Trump, who had then been fanning the flames of the so-called birther conspiration.
White House chief of staff Denis McDonough was spotted with Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in the Rose Garden during the meeting.
First lady Michelle Obama and future first lady Melania Trump met in the White House residence while their husbands sat together in the Oval Office. This was Melania Trump's first trip to the White House but not her husband's; he visited in November 1987 for a reception for members of the Friends of Art and Preservation in Embassies Foundation and in 1985 with his first wife, Ivana Trump, for a state dinner for King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.
During remarks in the Rose Garden on Wednesday, Obama said he was heartened by what he heard from the future president in his remarks early Wednesday morning and when they spoke on the phone.
Now, everybody is sad when their side loses an election. But the day after, we have to remember that we're actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We're not Democrats first. We're not Republicans first. We are Americans first, he said. We're patriots first. We all want what's best for this country. That's what I heard in Mr. Trump's remarks last night. That's what I heard when I spoke to him directly. And I was heartened by that, Obama said.
That's what the country needs — a sense of unity; a sense of inclusion; a respect for our institutions, our way of life, rule of law; and a respect for each other. I hope that he maintains that spirit throughout this transition, and I certainly hope that's how his presidency has a chance to begin, he added.
Obama invited Trump to the White House during that early morning call Wednesday, after monitoring the election results from the residence.
During Wednesday's press briefing, press secretary Josh Earnest rejected the idea that the meeting would occur under an air of insincerity, given their criticisms of each other on the campaign trail.
No, to be blunt. The president is quite sincere about fulfilling the basic responsibility that he has to the American people and our democracy to ensure a smooth transition to the next presidency, Earnest said.
I'm not saying it's going to be an easy meeting, but the president is deeply sincere about fulfilling this responsibility, he said.
After the White House meeting, Trump headed to Capitol Hill to meet with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Vice President-elect Gov. Mike Pence met with Vice President Joe Biden at the White House for about 30 minutes.
The inauguration is on Jan. 20 and construction of the reviewing stands in front of the White House has started. The Obama administration started working on transition planning in early 2016, establishing a White House Transition Coordinating Council.