Obama, Trump Display Unity in White House Meeting
President Obama and his successor, President-elect Donald Trump, were cordial and polite during their meeting on Thursday.
The Hill reports:
President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump put on a show of unity Thursday at their first meeting at the White House.
The two men, who have been sworn enemies for years, met for more than an hour and a half in the Oval Office, even though Trump said they were only scheduled to meet for 15 minutes.
“I have been very encouraged by the interest in President-elect Trump’s wanting to work with my team around many of the issues that this great country faces,” Obama told assembled journalists following what he called an “excellent” and “wide-ranging” discussion.
Obama said the leaders spoke about domestic and foreign policy, as well as the whirlwind, 10-week transition period already underway.
“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 believe it is important for all of us, regardless of party and regardless of political preferences, to come together to work together and deal with the many challenges we face.”
Trump called Obama a “very good man” and said meeting with him — face-to-face for the the first time ever — was “a great honor.” The president-elect vowed to seek Obama’s counsel before he enters the Oval Office.
“We discussed a lot of different situations, some wonderful and some difficult,” Trump said. “I very much look forward to dealing with the president in the future.”
The two leaders handled an admittedly difficult moment gracefully.
Obama and Trump were seated in high-backed armchairs set up at the end of the room, an arrangement typical for when the president meets with foreign leaders.
The sit-down is the unofficial kickoff of a transition of power that will be painful for Democrats and triumphant for the GOP.
Trump has pledged to erase a number of Obama’s core accomplishments, including his sweeping healthcare law, immigration and environmental regulations, and the nuclear deal with Iran.
“They didn’t resolve all their differences,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “I also feel confident telling you they did not try to resolve all their differences.”
Asked if Obama still believes Trump is unqualified, Earnest said the president’s “views haven’t changed.”
It’s also the latest political spectacle in a year that’s been full of them.
The meeting Thursday brought to Obama’s office a man who had vocally challenged the legitimacy of his presidency by questioning whether he was born in the U.S.
Trump’s “birther” push led Obama to label him a “carnival barker” and the president repeatedly warned voters this year that the businessman should not be trusted with the nation’s nuclear codes.
The day got off to a rocky start, when Trump refused to let a group of journalists travel with him from New York to cover his first journey to the White House, a break with longstanding tradition that guarantees eyes are on the country’s leader at all times.
Trump entered the White House out of view of journalists via the South Lawn and reporters did not see him leave the White House complex after the meeting wrapped up.
Journalists covering Trump were allowed into the Oval Office at the behest of the White House, and not Trump’s team.
Obama campaigned hard for Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, throughout the 2016 presidential race. And there were signs the wounds of the bitter campaign are not fully healed.
Obama’s team and Trump’s campaign did not arrange a photo opportunity with the two families, though President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush posed with Barack and Michelle Obama after they arrived at the White House for the first time in 2008.
The first lady instead met privately with Trump’s wife, Melania, in the White House Thursday, after delivering some of the most powerful criticism of Trump on the campaign trail, hitting him for his treatment of women.
“Absolutely not,” Earnest said when asked if the Obamas tried to avoid being photographed together with the Trumps.
Obama had tea with Melania Trump and gave her a tour of the White House residence, according to Earnest. They spoke about raising kids in the executive mansion.
The Trumps have a son, Barron, who is about the same age as the Obamas’ younger daughter when she first came to live in the White House.
For months, President Obama has promised a smooth transition regardless of the election’s outcome, and there were signs that process is moving forward.
Obama Chief of Staff Denis McDonough was spotted by reporters taking Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, on a walk along the South Lawn as the two leaders met in the Oval Office.
Kushner is a close adviser to the president-elect. Other advisers to the Republican, including Dan Scavino, were seen speaking with the president’s top aide.
Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks also met with Earnest and the White House press team to discuss media issues.
Vice President Biden is scheduled to sit down behind closed doors with Vice President-elect Mike Pence later Thursday.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr.