Obama hosts Trump: 'If you succeed, then the country succeeds'

Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence then traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

November 10, 2016 21:18
4 minute read.
U.S. President Obama greets President-elect Trump in the White House Oval Office in Washington

U.S. President Obama greets President-elect Trump in the White House Oval Office in Washington. (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – Outgoing President Barack Obama welcomed his successor to the White House on Thursday, meeting with Donald Trump for the first time.

They discussed foreign and domestic policy in the Oval Office for over an hour and a half. The meeting was one on one, without their staffs.

“As far as I’m concerned, it could’ve gone a lot longer,” Trump said.

“We discussed a lot of different situations, some wonderful and some difficulties,” the president- elect said. “I very much look forward to dealing with the president in the future, including [for] counsel. He explained some of the difficulties, some of the high-flying assets and some of the really great things that have been achieved.”

“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.

Obama said that he and his wife, Michelle, are working to accommodate the Trumps and make them feel welcome in the White House mansion.

The first lady spent time with Trump’s wife, Melania, as the two men discussed policy challenges and the organizational details of the transition of power.

“My No. 1 priority in the coming two months is to try to facilitate a transition that ensures our president-elect is successful. And 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 said. “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.

“If you succeed, then the country succeeds,” Obama added.

According to administration officials, the outgoing leader focused much of the discussion on the “organizational chart” he has structured that vests his aides with the power to make decisions on his behalf, or to elevate issues to his desk. Establishing that structure is vital, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, in order for an administration to handle the “life and death decisions that need to be made on a regular basis in this building.”

“The two men did not re-litigate their differences in the Oval Office,” Earnest told reporters.

After receiving a briefing on the meeting by Obama, Earnest described it as “a little less awkward than some might have expected.”

Their foreign policy discussion was in the context of Obama’s final foreign trip, scheduled for next week, to Greece, Germany and Peru. White House officials expect those countries’ leaders to focus their questions on what to expect from a Trump administration.

Obama sought answers to those inquiries, Earnest said.

Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence then traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The Republican ticket that swept into power on Tuesday will have a “unified” GOP majority in Congress to work with, Ryan said.

Pence also met with outgoing counterpart Joe Biden in private, according to administration officials.

After meeting Ryan, Trump said that he will work very rapidly on issues like healthcare and immigration.

Speaking in Ryan’s office, Trump told reporters: “We are going to lower taxes, as you know,” and added: “I think we are going to do some absolutely spectacular things for the American people.”

Trump shocked the world on Tuesday night when he defeated Hillary Clinton in their race for the White House. While she won the popular vote, Trump won at least 290 Electoral College votes – 20 more than is necessary to secure victory, with the results in a few states yet undecided.

Protests against the president- elect broke out in major cities nationwide on Wednesday night, including in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington and New York. They claimed to represent the 58% of Americans who, according to what respondents told pollsters on Election Day, were concerned or scared of a Trump presidency, and the 62% who considered him unfit for the office.

Despite striking a conciliatory tone in his meeting with the president- elect, Obama just last week described Trump as an existential threat to the world’s oldest democratic republic. “This election is about more than just plans, policies. There’s something more fundamental at stake,” he said at a rally for Clinton.

“The fate of the republic rests on your shoulders,” he said, warning that democracy itself was on the ballot. “The fate of the world is teetering.”

For his part, Trump has characterized Obama as the worst president in the country’s 240-year history.

Trump will take the oath of office and become America’s 45th president and commander-in-chief on January 20.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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