Obama 'Encouraged' After Meeting Trump at White House

Trump says he looks forward to seeking counsel from Obama as he prepares to enter the White House.

President Barack Obama shakes hands with President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP

U.S. President Barack Obama greeted President-elect Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday, the first public step in a transition of power after the Republican businessman's surprise victory in a bitterly fought election campaign.

Obama said he was "encouraged" by his conversation with Trump, saying the meeting was "excellent." 

Trump says he looks forward to seeking counsel from Obama as he prepares to enter the White House. Noting he had never met Obama, Trump called Obama a good man and said the two had discussed both "wonderful" things and the "difficult" challenges the country faces.

After a nearly 90 minute meeting in the Oval Office, Obama said the men discussed organizational issues related to the presidential transition as well as foreign and domestic policy.

"My number one priority in the coming two months is to try to facilitate a transition that ensures our president-elect is successful," Obama said.

There is no love lost between the two men, who have had almost no one-on-one contact previously. Trump led the "birther" movement that questioned Obama's U.S. citizenship and has pledged to overturn the Democrat's signature policy achievements after he takes office on January 20.

Obama campaigned vigorously for Trump's Democratic rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and called Trump both temperamentally unfit for the presidency and dangerously unprepared to have access to U.S. 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.

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. 

Transfer of power 

Republican Chris Christie, who is leading Trump's transition team, told NBC's "Today" program, "We heard a lot about the peaceful transfer of power during this election, and I think you'll see that symbolized today." 

During the campaign, Trump hinted that he might not accept the result if he lost to Clinton

Asked whether Trump would apologize 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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: U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

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. 

Foreign contact

The White House has laid out its plan to ensure a smooth transition, including giving representatives selected by Trump briefings on the work of U.S. federal agencies. 

Trump and his senior aides will also start to receive daily briefings by U.S. 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 U.S. 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.