President-elect Donald Trump swooped into Washington, D.C., on Thursday for his first-ever visit to the White House since his historic election, huddling with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office for more than an hour and a half. The brash entrepreneur then headed off for meetings with leaders of the Republican majorities in Congress.
Obama and Trump struck a conciliatory pose in brief remarks after the meeting, their first face-to-face conversation after years of doing long-distance political battle. They presented a united, bipartisan front by refusing to answer questions from reporters.
Obama said he and Trump had an “excellent” and “wide-ranging” conversation about domestic policy and world affairs, and he urged Americans to rally behind their soon-to-be leader at a time when angry protesters have taken to the streets in several cities to reject Trump’s election.
“I believe that it is important for all of us — regardless of party, and regardless of political preferences — to now come together, work together and deal with the many challenges that we face,” Obama said. “I want to emphasize to you, Mr. President-elect, that we now are going to want to do everything we can to help you succeed. Because if you succeed, then the country succeeds.”
Trump, sitting in the office he will soon redecorate, described the discussion as an opportunity for the two men to get to know each other and professed to have “great respect” for the sitting president. For years, Trump had spearheaded the “birther” movement seeking to discredit Obama’s legitimacy as president.
“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 counsel,” Trump said. “Mr. President, it was a great honor meeting with you. And I look forward to meeting with you many, many more times in the future.”
Meanwhile, first lady Michelle Obama met in private with Melania Trump, who inherits the East Room come Jan. 20. And White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough led senior Trump advisers, including son-in-law Jared Kushner, around the grounds of the presidential mansion, and other top Obama aides met with their counterparts or potential successors.
In front of the White House’s north fence, workers kept up the hammering and nailing required to build the presidential reviewing stand for the inauguration in barely two months.
After the meeting, Trump headed off to meet with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Breaking with longstanding protocol, reporters were not permitted to view Trump’s arrival at the White House. And the president-elect also traveled without a protective pool of reporters, who would typically follow his movements and keep Americans informed of his whereabouts and well-being in the event of a crisis.