November 11, 2016: Just two days after his stunning election victory, President-elect Donald Trump and his wife, Melania Trump, visited the White House, invited by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
No press was allowed to film their arrival Thursday, but the president and the president-elect gave brief statements to reporters in the Oval Office after the meeting.
Despite a long history of animosity between Obama and Trump, both were gracious.
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“I just had the opportunity to have an excellent conversation with President-elect Trump,” Obama said. “It was wide-ranging. We talked about some of the organizational issues in setting up the White House; 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.”
Trump told reporters the meeting was supposed to last about ten minutes but lasted 90, and it could have gone on even longer.
“I look forward to dealing with the president in the future, including counsel,” he said. “He explained some of the difficulties and the high-flying assets and some of the wonderful things that have been achieved. Mr. President, it was wonderful meeting with you and I look forward to meeting with you many more times in the future.”
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The White House said Obama officials are making sure that Trump and his yet-to-be-named key officials are “prepared from day one to protect our national security.” U.S. intelligence and defense officials are starting to give Trump daily briefings on threats to the country’s security and overseas military operations.
In addition, the Obama administration plans to host two exercises involving several government agencies to help familiarize Trump officials with how the government responds to domestic emergencies, whether terrorist attacks or such natural disasters as violent tornadoes and hurricanes.
‘Less awkward’ than expected
After the meeting, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked if the meeting was awkward.
“The meeting might have been a little less awkward than some might have expected,” he said.
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Trump said it was the first time the two men have met personally.
The president campaigned exceptionally hard for his former secretary of state and fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton. Obama often derided Trump, the blunt-spoken real estate mogul who has never held elected office, as unfit to lead the country.
Meanwhile, Trump for years questioned whether Obama was born in the U.S. before recently acknowledging his citizenship. He says he plans to undermine key Obama policies, including the health care reforms, environmental regulations, protection of some immigrants from deportation, and the Iran nuclear deal.
Rooting for success
Despite the bitter campaign, Obama pledged Wednesday to cooperate with Trump’s takeover.
“It is no secret that the president-elect and I have some pretty significant differences,” Obama said. “But remember, eight years ago, President [George W.] Bush and I had some pretty significant differences. But President Bush’s team could not have been more professional or more gracious in making sure we had a smooth transition.”
Obama said he is rooting for Trump’s success and has ordered the White House team “to work as hard as we can to make sure that this is a successful transition for the president-elect.”
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Secretary of State John Kerry cited the tradition of peaceful changes in leadership as he congratulated Trump on Thursday and wished him well for the “enormous challenges that he will undertake.”
“With a transition like this, the issues that we face don’t go away,” Kerry said during a visit to New Zealand. “The values with which we face them are the same values the day after the election that they were the day before.”
Meeting with Congressional leaders
While in Washington, Trump also met with House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, leaders of the Republican majorities in each chamber, about their legislative plans. Both gave tepid support to Trump during the election, but have vowed to work in concert with him to pass the party’s agenda.
The most prominent Republican effort will be to unwind and replace the Affordable Care Act, the outgoing president’s health care program, known as Obamacare, that helped 20 million people get health insurance.
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First lady, tour and tea
Earnest said first lady Michelle Obama showed future first lady Melania Trump the private quarters, and they had tea. He said they talked about the special challenges of raising children in the White House.
The Obamas have raised their two daughters, Sasha and Malia, in the White House. Donald and Melania Trump have a 10-year-old son, Barron, who will likely grow up in the White House, as well. (VOA)