It’s tradition for outgoing presidents to welcome their successors to the White House on the morning of Inauguration Day

By Tierney McAfee
Updated January 20, 2017 11:51 AM

In a longstanding inaugural tradition, the Obamas welcomed the Trumps to the White House for tea or coffee on Friday morning, just hours before President-elect Donald Trump is due to be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States of America.

President Barack Obama and his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, met the president-elect and his wife, incoming first lady Melania Trump, on the steps leading to the front door of the White House.

The two couples exchanged pleasantries and the president greeted Trump by saying, “How are you? Good to see you. Congratulations.”

Mrs. Trump presented Mrs. Obama with a Tiffany & Co. blue gift box tied in white satin ribbon. “You brought a gift!” the first lady exclaimed. And then, in a sign of the awkward gaps that come with the transition of the White House, she awkwardly looked around in vain for an aide to hand it off to while they posed for cameras. Finally, President Obama took the box and walked it inside, saying gamely, “I’ll take care of the protocol here.”

Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Trump put their arms around each other as the ingoing and outgoing first couples then posed for photos together on the White House steps.

“Get used to a lot of photos,” the president told the Trumps.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The president also asked Trump “how was church?” as he led the Trumps into the White House.

Also in attendance at the tea reception, according to pool reports, were Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and Vice President-elect Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, among others.

Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Trump later emerged from the White House together, looking solemn as they got into a car to ride to the Capitol together, as per tradition. Their husbands left the White House moments later, looking similarly straight-faced as they got into a separate car also headed for the Capitol.

The limousine carrying Trump and Obama down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol complex drew fairly thin morning crowds, except where protesters in small groups waved signs such as “love Trumps hate.”

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty

Tom Barrack, Trump’s longtime friend and the chair of his presidential inaugural committee, previously told reporters that after the couples’ White House meet-up the Trumps would ride with the Obamas to the Capitol Building for the inauguration.

“They’ll go to the White House, invited for coffee or tea, they’ll spend half an hour there or so, and then they’ll go together,” he said, according to local news station WTOP.

“That’s a great moment,” he added, also calling the Obamas’ invitation “very gracious.”

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It’s tradition for outgoing presidents to welcome their successors to the White House on the morning of Inauguration Day. Former President George W. Bush and wife Laura Bush hosted the Obamas and Bidens for coffee or tea in the Blue Room of the White House ahead of Obama’s first inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009. The visit lasted nearly two hours, with Obama and Bush meeting in the Oval Office in their first “substantive one-on-one session.” It was also Obama’s first visit to the Oval Office, the Associated Press reported at the time.

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Laura Bush and Michelle Obama spoke separately in the White House residence and traveled to the Capitol together, while the president and his successor rode in a limousine to the inauguration.
In keeping with another longstanding tradition, President Obama has left Trump a letter in the Oval Office, according to pool reports.

On Friday morning, one final Tweet from the Obamas’ @WhiteHouse account reached back to President Obama’s winning 2008 campaign slogan: “Yes we can. Yes we did.”

An Obama White House official told pool reporters Friday that the White House Residence staff have presented the president and the first lady with two flags that have been flown over the White House: one flown on the first day of the presidency and one flown the morning of the last day of the presidency.