The two men struck a tone of cooperation in their remarks afterwards, which come after many Americans were stunned that Trump pulled off an unexpected election victory over Hillary Clinton. His win sparked some anti-Trump protests across the country.
In their very first face-to-face sit-down, which latest about 90 minutes, the pair addressed reporters around 12:45 p.m. and shook hands.
Turning to address Trump directly, 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.”
Trump spoke after the president, and notably called him a “very good man, very good man.”
“Mr. President, it was a great honor to meet you and I look forward to meeting with you many, many more times,” he said.
Thursday’s meeting comes after Obama has joked repeatedly that this moment would never take place and that Trump would never be elected president. Just days before the election, Obama appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s “Mean Tweets” segment and responded to a tweet from Trump that said: “President Obama will go down in history as perhaps the worst president in the history of the United States!” Obama fired back: “Well, @realDonaldTrump, at least I will go down as a president.”
And back in January, Matt Lauer asked Obama on Today if he could imagine Trump one day giving a State of the Union speech.“Well, I can imagine it — in a Saturday Night Live skit,” Obama joked, but added, “Look, anything’s possible.” In July, he struck a more serious note when told Savannah Guthrie that Democrats should “stay worried” about a Trump presidency.
Obama also said he and Trump had an “excellent” and “wide-ranging” conversation on Thursday, in which they “talked about organization issues in setting up the White House, foreign policy, domestic policy.”
“As I said last night my No. 1 priority is to try to facilitate a transition that ensures … the president-elect is successful. I have been very encouraged by President-elect Trump’s interest in wanting to work with my team in many of the issues this country faces. I believe that it is important for all of us, regardless or party and regardless of personal preferences” to work together going forward.
The president added that while he and Trump were speaking, First Lady Michelle Obama was also meeting with her successor, Trump’s wife, Melania. “They had an excellent conversation as well,” the president said. “We want to make sure they feel welcome as they prepare to make this transition.”
In his remarks, Trump pointed out that while his meeting with the president was supposed to last for only 15 minutes, it lasted much longer. “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 difficulties.”
He added that the president “explained some of the difficulties, some of the wonderful things that have been achieved.”
After Trump finished speaking and the press began to fire questions at the president and president-elect, Obama smiled and offered Trump a friendly word of advice: “This is a good rule: Don’t answer any questions when they start yelling.”
According to pool reports, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was in the room during the meeting, as well as Trump aides Hope Hicks and Jared Kushner, the husband of Trump’s daughter Ivanka. Kushner took iPhone photos as the president and president-elect spoke.
Politico pooler Brent Griffiths reported that Trump, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, and House Speaker Paul Ryan are still having their planned lunch meeting at the Capitol Hill Club on Thursday.
Trump, Melania and Pence joined Ryan in his office Thursday afternoon, Griffiths reported, where only Trump and Ryan spoke. All four were photographed sitting at a conference table inside the office, and also admiring the view on the balcony outside the speaker’s office.
After Trump and Obama met, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest held a presser for reporters, in which he said, “President Obama came away from the meeting with renewed confidence in the commitment of the president-elect to engage in an effective, smooth transition. That obviously is what President Obama believes serves the American people the best … we are committed to doing what is required on our part to make sure that that happens, and the president was pleased to hear a similar commitment expressed by the president-elect.”
Earnest added that the president has been preparing for this moment for months, also noting that “what the president heard from the president-elect is a clear commitment to the kind of effective, smooth transition that the president Obama has been vowing to preside over for the better part of a year.”
“And the president intends to make good on that promise in the 70 days ahead,” he added.
Earnest continued, “There also was an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss staffing and organizing a White House. That’s complicated business and any White House is expected to be structured in a way to deal with multiple challenges or even multiple crises at the same time. The president-elect indicated a lot of interest in understanding the strategy of staffing an organizing a White House.”
According to White House pool reports, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough was spotted leading Ivanka Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, and other Trump aides across the back edge of the Rose Garden while Trump and Obama spoke in the Oval Office. McDonough and Kushner then took a private walk down the South Lawn and returned shortly after noon.
Senior Trump aide Dan Scavino was among the aides that joined McDonough in the Rose Garden, and earlier in the day thanked the fire department at LaGuardia Airport in Queens, New York, for the “amazing salute.”
Earlier, Trump’s plane with his last name on it landed at Reagan National Airport at about 10:30 a.m. Thursday morning, CNN reported.
An earlier pool report said Trump was expected to arrive via the White House South Lawn — but his entrance would not be visible to the press.
Obama said at a press conference on Wednesday, just hours after Trump’s stunning win, that he had called the president-elect to congratulate him and invite him to the White House for a meeting. The president has promised to facilitate a peaceful transition of power to the president-elect.
“We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country,” Obama said of Trump.
“We’re patriots first. We all want what’s best for this country,” he added. “That’s what I heard in Mr. Trump’s remarks last night. That’s what I heard when I spoke to him directly. And I was heartened by that.”
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British Prime Minister Theresa May also congratulated Trump on his victory in a phone conversation on Thursday, Politico reported, citing a spokesperson for No. 10 Downing Street.
The president-elect reportedly told May he looked forward to working with her and invited her for a visit to the United States “as soon as possible.”