Thursday November 10, 2016
President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump, who have often argued bitterly against each others' suitability to serve as the nation's commander in chief met face-to-face for the first time at the White House Thursday in a 90-minute transition meeting followed by a cordial joint press appearance.
The meeting, initially to have lasted just 15 minutes, went on for 90 minutes, with Obama calling the results "excellent" and Trump saying he is looking forward to receiving Obama's "counsel" as the transition of power takes place.
"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," Trump told reporters, sitting alongside Obama for a short press announcement after the meeting.
"We had never met each other. I have great respect. The meeting lasted for almost an hour and a half, and as far as I'm concerned, it could have gone on for a lot longer."
Obama and Trump have been harshly critical of each other for years, with the president blasting Trump through the campaign as being unfit to serve as commander in chief.
Trump, for his part, challenged Obama for years, including suggesting Obama was born outside the United States and pushing for his long-form birth certificate in a "birther" movement that was still under discussion as late as September, when he said in the first presidential debate that he pursued the issue because African-Americans "wanted me to come to that conclusion."
On Thursday, sitting side-by-side, the two men seemed to put aside their former animosity in an effort while both spoke of the importance of a smooth transition.
Trump said the two discussed several different situations, including "some wonderful and some difficulties."
"I very much look forward to dealing with the president in the future including counsel," said Trump. "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."
Obama also described the meeting as an "excellent conversation" that was "wide-ranging."
"We talked about some of the organizational issues in setting up a White House," said Obama. "We talked about foreign policy, we talked about domestic policy. And as I said last night, my number one priority in the coming two months is to try to facilitate a transition that insures our president-elect is successful."
Obama said he has been "very encouraged" by Trump's willingness to work with his team about many issues the United States is facing, and said it is important for the nation to come together.
"I believe that it is important for all of us, regardless of party and regardless of political preferences, to now come together, work together to deal with the many challenges that we face," said Obama.
First Lady Michelle Obama met with incoming First Lady Melania Trump as well, and "we had an excellent conversation with her as well," said Obama.
"We want to make sure that that they feel welcome as they prepare to make this transition," said Obama, telling Trump that "we now are going to want to do everything we can to help you succeed, because if you succeed,then the country succeeds."
The president and his successor refused questions from the reporters, with Obama joking to Trump that he shouldn't answer questions being yelled by reporters.
White House Press Spokesman Josh Earnest, in his daily press briefing, told reporters he would not get into all the details of the Obama-Trump meeting, but said the president came away from it "with renewed confidence in the commitment of the president-elect to engage in smooth transition.
"That's what President Obama believes serves the American people the best. We are committed to doing what is required on our part to make sure it happens and the president was pleased to hear a similar commitment expressed by the president-elect."
Earnest said he would not rule out further consultation between Trump and Obama, as during the past eight years, Obama has benefited with conversations he's had with previous presidents, and "I would not be surprised to hear that President-elect Trump would benefit from that course as well."
There was no other staff in the Oval Office when Obama and Trump met, said Earnest, but he noted he would feel confident in telling reporters the two did not resolve all their differences and did not try to.
"They sought to lay a foundation for an effective transition from the Obama presidency to the Trump presidency," said Earnest. "This was an important early step to discuss that transition, and based on the kind of agreement that was evident about the priority that they both place on a smooth transition, it sounds like the meeting was at least a little less awkward than some might have expected."
Obama, said Earnest, appreciated how former President George W. Bush gave him "running room" and space, and did not offer critiques of every decision his successor was making, answering a question over whether the president plans to become an opposition figure when he leaves office.
"I am confident that President George W. Bush didn't agree with every decision," said Earnest, "but he was extraordinarily respectful of the democratic process and President Obama admired that. I can't make promises for what president Obama will do once he is gone."
Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden plans to meet Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, later on Thursday.
Trump came to Washington from New York on his private jet, and did not bring journalists in his motorcade or on the plane, breaking precedent, reports The Associated Press.
Trump also plans to meet with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to discuss the Republican legislative agenda.
Ryan has called for unity, but also had criticized Trump and refused to campaign with him after a hot-mic video was released of the now president-elect saying lewd things about women.
The White House meeting came one day after protesters nationwide marched against Trump's election, chanting "not my president," and voicing outcry against Trump's Electoral College win over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who took the popular vote in Tuesday's election.
In an emotional concession speech Wednesday, Clinton said her loss was "painful and it will be for a long time" and acknowledged that the nation was "more divided than we thought," but still said the nation owes Trump "an open mind and the chance to lead."
In Washington, Trump's transition team has been culling through personnel lists for top jobs, and a person familiar with the transition operations said the personnel process was still in its early stages, but Trump's team was putting a premium on quickly filling key national security posts.
The person was not authorized to discuss details by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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