WASHINGTON D.C. — President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama met face-to-face for the first time on Thursday, vowing at a White House meeting to work together to ensure a smooth transition of power.
For more than 90 minutes the Republican president-elect and the current Democratic commander-in-chief talked behind closed doors, before speaking briefly to reporters in the Oval Office, providing a show of unity to a deeply divided electorate.
Obama, who campaigned aggressively for Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton, said his “No. 1 priority” in the next two months was ensuring a successful transition ahead of Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
“Most of all, I want to emphasize to you Mr. Presidentelect, that we now are going to want to do everything we can to help you to succeed,” Obama said. “Because if you succeed, then the country succeeds.”
Trump, sitting alongside Obama, said he “very much” looked forward to working with the outgoing president.“Mr. President it was a great honor to be with you, and I look forward to being with you many, many more times in the future,” Trump said.
Obama and Trump said they discussed foreign policy and domestic issues during their meeting. Trump said the meeting was initially meant to be a 10- to 15-minute first encounter, because the two had “never met each other,” but lasted longer, “and as far as I’m concerned, it could’ve gone on for a lot longer.”
The joint appearance came two days after Trump defeated Clinton, and a day after scores of demonstrators took to the streets of major cities including New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C. to denounce his win. On Thursday, small pockets of protesters marched through the capital as Trump’s motorcade made its way through the city.
“I believe that it is important for all regardless of party and regardless of political preferences to now come together, work together to deal with the many challenges we face,” Obama said.
Trump and Obama’s first facetoface meeting, and their pledges of cooperation, marked a shift in tone from the bitter campaign, during which they derided each other frequently.
Trump had cast Clinton as an extension of what he called Obama’s “failed policies,” while Obama said the real estate mogul as “uniquely unqualified” and “unfit” for the nation’s highest office.
The acrimony between the two predated the presidential race. Before his run, Trump served as the defacto leader of the “birther” movement, questioning the U.S. citizenship of the nation’s first black president. He did not concede Obama was indeed a citizen until September, after facing mounting calls to clarify his position.
Trump, joined by his wife Melania, and Vice Presidentelect Mike Pence also spent the day in the nation’s capital meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan (RWis.), and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (RKy.) in the Capitol building.
After the meetings, Trump, who will enter office with Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress, touted his “really great priorities” for his first 100 days in office.
“We’re looking very strongly at immigration, we’re going to look at the borders, very importantly, we’re looking very strongly at health care and we’re looking at jobs big league jobs,” Trump told reporters.
Ryan, who often found himself at odds with Trump during the campaign, said “we had a fantastic, productive meeting about getting to work, rolling up our sleeves and going to work for the American people.”
McConnell described the encounter as “a firstclass meeting.”Pence and Vice President Joe Biden also met privately Thursday afternoon, as did Melania Trump and first lady Michelle Obama.