Trump meets with Obama at the White House as whirlwind transition starts

  • President-elect Donald Trump and President Obama shake hands following their meeting in the Oval Office on Thursday. AP

Washington Post
Thursday, November 10, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump and President Obama pledged Thursday to work together after their first-ever meeting, starting the whirlwind transition that will unfold over the next 10 weeks until Trump is sworn into office on Jan. 20.

An hour-and-a-half after Trump entered the White House through the South Lawn entrance – avoiding news cameras and the eyes of the president’s staff – a group of reporters were ushered into the Oval Office, where the president and president-elect were seated in the high backed armchairs at the end of the room.

In a sign of how tensions between the two politicians have not disappeared in the immediate aftermath of the election, the White House did not arrange for the traditional photo op between the current First Couple and the incoming one, a custom that George W. Bush and his wife Laura observed when the Obamas visited the White House in 2008. Melania Trump met separately with Michelle Obama.

Still, Trump told reporters Thursday that he expects to work closely with Obama now and in future to seek his advice in guiding the country. He noted that a session that was supposed to last 10 to 15 minutes went on for an hour-and-a-half.

“As far as I’m concerned it could have lasted a lot longer,” Trump said. “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 counsel.”

“Mr. President, it was a great honor being with you, and I look forward to being with many more time in the future,” he added, calling Obama “a very good man.”

Obama, for his part, said, “I have been very encouraged by the interest by the President-elect Trump’s wanting to work with my team around many of the issues that this great country faces. 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.”

The president said that the men’s two wives had enjoyed spending time together Thursday morning.

“We want to make sure they feel welcome as they prepare to make this transition,” Obama said. “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 succeeds.”

As the two leaders met, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough gave a tour to Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and other aides, such as Dan Scavino, across the edge of the Rose Garden. Afterward McDonough led Kushner on a walk down the South Lawn for nearly 20 minutes, at which point the two men rejoined Trump’s senior staff and re-entered the White House.

A slew of journalists, including international reporters, milled about on the driveway leading to the West Wing ahead of Trump’s arrival. Some did live updates to their networks. Across West Executive Drive, dozens of White House staffers gathered on a steps in hopes of a glimpse.

Obama has pledged his administration’s full cooperation with Trump’s transition team, citing the close working relationship he enjoyed with President George W. Bush during their transfer of power eight years ago.

“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,” Obama said in the Rose Garden on Wednesday.