US President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump met on Thursday for the first time, setting aside the deep rancor that dominated the long campaign season to discuss the transition to the Republican’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
Their 90-minute meeting in the White House Oval Office, with no aides present, took place just two days after Trump’s stunning election defeat of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Reuters reports.
Obama, who vigorously campaigned for his fellow Democrat to succeed him, had repeatedly called Trump unfit for the president’s office, while the businessman had often dubbed Obama’s eight-year tenure a “disaster”.
But in separate post-election remarks on Wednesday both men appeared to seek to help the country heal from a bitterly divisive campaign, and that tone continued into the White House meeting.
Seated next to Obama after their talks, Trump told reporters: “We really discussed a lot of situations, some wonderful, some difficulties.”
He said Obama explained “some of the really great things that have been achieved”, but did not elaborate.
“It was a great honor being with you and I look forward to being with you many, many more times in the future,” Trump said, with a tone of deference.
Trump, a real estate magnate who has never held political office, later met congressional leaders, including US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican who has had a strained relationship with the party’s presidential candidate.
Michelle Obama, herself a fierce critic of Trump during several campaign appearances for Clinton, met privately with Trump’s wife, Melania, in the White House residence.
She showed Melania Trump the famous Truman Balcony as well as the State Floor of the White House.
Michelle Obama has raised two daughters in the White House and the Trumps have a son, 10 year-old Barron. The two women discussed raising children at the White House, Earnest said.
Amid the efforts to bury hatchets, there were scattered protests in a string of US cities against Trump for a second day on Thursday.
Security fences were erected around Trump’s new hotel in Washington, just blocks from the White House, and around New York’s Trump Tower as students protested his election.
Obama said he had offered assistance to Trump over the next couple of months, and urged the country to unite to face its challenges.
“We now are going to want to do everything we can to help you succeed because if you succeed, then the country succeeds,” Obama said, adding he and Trump discussed a range of domestic and foreign policy issues and details related to the transition period.
“The meeting might have been at least a little less awkward than some might have expected,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
Trump went from the White House to Capitol Hill for meetings with Republican congressional leaders, most of whom had a frosty relationship with Trump during the campaign.
Republicans also retained control of the Senate and House in Tuesday’s election, meaning at least some of Trump’s agenda may find friendly terrain in Congress.
Trump emerged from meeting Ryan, along with vice president-elect Mike Pence, to tell reporters, “We’re going to lower taxes as you know.”
He added, in reference to Obama’s signature healthcare reform of 2010 that is a common target of Trump and congressional Republicans, “We’re going to fix healthcare and make it more affordable and better.”
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