WASHINGTON — After savaging President Barack Obama during the campaign, President-elect Donald Trump met him in person for the first time on Thursday and said he had “great respect” for him.
Bitter rivals a few days ago, Obama and first lady Michelle greeted President-elect Trump and his wife, Melania, at the White House on Thursday morning.
Trump arrived at the White House at 11:02 ET and spent more than 90 minutes with Obama – more than the 10 or 15 minutes Trump said he had anticipated.
WHAT OBAMA SAID
“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 and domestic policy. And as I said last night, my number one priority in the coming two months is try to facilitate a transition that ensures the president-elect is successful.
“I have been very encouraged by the interest in President-elect Trump to work with my team around many of the issues that this great country faces and 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.”
“In the meantime, Michelle has had a chance to meet the incoming First Lady and they had an excellent conversation as well. We want to make sure they feel welcome as they prepare to make this transition.
“Most of all, I want to emphasize to you, Mr. President-elect, that we now are going to do everything we can to help you succeed because if you succeed then the country succeed.”
WHAT TRUMP SAID
“Well, thank you very much, President Obama. This was a meeting that was going to last for maybe 10, or 15 minutes, just get to know each other. We had never met each other.
“I had 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. 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 his counsel. He explained some of the difficulties.. 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.”
Trump had entered the White House via a South Lawn entrance. Reporters were not allowed to witness Trump’s historic entry into the White House for the first time since his stunning, surprise election on Tuesday.
Trump’s staff, in fact, has not allowed a member of a press pool to cover the movements of the president-elect of Tuesday, a break with decades of precedent.
This is Melania Trump’s first visit to the White House. Trump has been to the White House before, including attending a state dinner in 1985 and a 1987 reception.
Slovenia-born Melania Trump is the second first lady not a native of the U.S.The first was London-born Louisa Adams, wife of John Quincy Adams, the sixth president.
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough was spotted by a pooler walking on the South Lawn with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, a key campaign advisor.
“I think it’s going to be great,” said Trump’s transition chief, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, when asked on NBC’s “Today” show about the meeting a few hours before it is taking place.
Mrs. Obama will take Mrs. Trump on a tour of the East Wing and the White House residence — just as then first lady Laura Bush showed Michelle Obama around after the 2008 election.
The difference in 2016 is that Obama threw himself into campaigning for Hillary Clinton, calling Trump unfit to be the Commander-in-Chief.
On Thursday morning, Obama welcomes Trump, who as a leader of the birther movement questioned Obama’s right to be president, to the Oval Office.
After that, Trump heads to Capitol Hill to meet with House Speaker Paul Ryan R-Wisc., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell R-Ky.
On Wednesday, Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden by his side, emphasized the need for a smooth transition.
The Obama administration started working on transition planning in early 2016, establishing a White House Transition Coordinating Council.
Once Trump and Hillary Clinton became their party nominees, both teams started formal transition planning, working out of federally funded office space and coordinating with Obama administration transition officials.
“Now, it is no secret that the President-elect and I have some pretty significant differences. But remember, eight years ago, President 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 so that we could hit the ground running. And one thing you realize quickly in this job is that the presidency, and the vice presidency, is bigger than any of us,” Obama said.
“So I have instructed my team to follow the example that President Bush’s team set eight years ago, and work as hard as we can to make sure that this is a successful transition for the President-elect — because we are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country. The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. And over the next few months, we are going to show that to the world,” Obama said.
On Thursday afternoon, Obama welcomes the Cleveland Cavaliers to the White House for an event on the South Lawn to honor the NBA champions.