Obama vows to help Trump succeed, during ‘excellent’ White House transition meeting
Trump says he looks forward to receiving Obama’s counsel, describing 90-minute meeting as a ‘great honour’
US President Barack Obama and his successor Donald Trump held a 90-minute transition meeting in the Oval Office Thursday, with the outgoing president vowing his support after an “excellent conversation.”
Obama pledged his administration would “do everything we can to help you succeed, because if you succeed, then the country succeeds.”
Watch: Obama and Trump’s first White House meeting
Trump said the pair “discussed a lot of different situations - some wonderful and some difficulties,” and said he looked forward to receiving Obama’s counsel. He has previously called Obama the “most ignorant president in our history”.
The two men ended the remarkably civil White House encounter with a handshake, but refused to take questions.
“It is important for all of us, regardless of party and regardless of political preferences, to now come together, work together, to deal with the many challenges that we face,” Obama said.
Trump appeared more subdued than usual, and was unusually cautious and deferential in his remarks.
“Mr President, it was a great honour being with you,” Trump said, calling Obama a “very good man.”
The meeting, which came less than 36 hours after Trump’s shock election victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, had the potential to be awkward.
Obama campaigned vigorously for Clinton, and called Trump both temperamentally unfit for the presidency and dangerously unprepared to have access to US nuclear codes.
Obama and Trump will seek to put their tensions behind them, at least for the cameras, during their Oval Office meeting. Trump’s motorcade took a South Lawn entrance into the White House, out of view of television cameras.
They even appeared to find common cause in their opinion of the press.
“Here’s a good rule. Don’t answer questions when they just start yelling,” Obama told Trump after their meeting-closing handshake.
First lady Michelle Obama will also meet privately with Trump’s wife, Melania, in the White House residence.
On Wednesday, Obama said that despite his major differences with Trump, he would follow the lead of former Republican President George W. Bush in 2008 and ensure a smooth handover to Trump.
“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,” Obama said. “So I have instructed my team to follow the example that President Bush’s team set.”
After an unexpected election win on Tuesday that stunned the world, Trump spent Wednesday focusing on the transition during meetings with his staff at Trump Tower in New York.
While Democratic politicians in Washington were urging cooperation with the newly-elected president, anti-Trump demonstrations broke out in cities across the United States.
“Not my president,” shouted hundreds in New York. Demonstrators sat down on a highway interchange in Los Angeles blocking traffic and 1,800 people in Chicago chanted “No Trump! No KKK! No racist USA” outside the Trump International Hotel and Tower.
Republican Chris Christie, who is leading Trump’s transition team, told NBC’s “Today” programme, “We heard a lot about the peaceful transfer of power during this election, and I think you’ll see that symbolised today.”
During the campaign, Trump hinted that he might not accept the result if he lost to Clinton.
Asked whether Trump would apologise to the president for questioning his birthplace and legitimacy, the New Jersey governor, who could end up with a job in the Trump administration, said the controversy was just politics, adding: “They have a lot more important things to talk about.”
Upon taking office, Trump will enjoy Republican majorities in both chambers of the US Congress that could help him implement his legislative agenda and scrap or roll back Obama policies that he dislikes, such as the “Obamacare” healthcare law, the nuclear deal with Iran and US participation in the Paris agreement to fight global warming.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama would brief Trump about the benefits of those policies during their meeting.
Later on Thursday, Trump will hold separate meetings with the Republican leaders in Congress: US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Trump, after a meeting with the Senate Republican leader on Thursday, said his top three priorities are immigration, healthcare and jobs.
Ryan and Trump shared a strained relationship during the campaign, although they both ultimately said they supported each other. McConnell also kept a distance from Trump for most of the campaign.
Trump and Ryan will “discuss how they can hit the ground running in a Trump administration,” a Republican source said.
Trump’s advisers are considering JPMorgan Chase & Co Chief Executive Jamie Dimon for the post of Treasury Secretary, CNBC reported, citing two people familiar with the matter.
The White House has laid out its plan to ensure a smooth transition, including giving representatives selected by Trump briefings on the work of US federal agencies.
Trump and his senior aides will also start to receive daily briefings by US intelligence officials, the White House said. The Obama administration also plans two “interagency exercises” for Trump’s team aimed at handling and responding “to major domestic incidents.”
Beginning to reach out to foreign leaders, Trump held a telephone call with Theresa May, the British prime minister’s office said on Thursday. The incoming US leader invited May to visit as soon as possible.
Trump aides were in touch with Russian government officials during the presidential campaign, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency on Thursday. And Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was ready to fully restore ties with Washington following tense relations with the Obama administration.
During one presidential debate last month, Clinton called Trump a “puppet” of Putin.