WASHINGTON, D.C. U.S. President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump met on Thursday for the first time, setting aside the deep rancor that dominated the long campaign season as they discussed the transition to Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20. Their 90-minute meeting in the White House Oval Office, with no aides present, took place just two days after Trump’s stunning defeat of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Obama, who vigorously campaigned for his fellow Democrat to succeed him, had repeatedly called Trump unfit for the president’s office, while the Republican candidate had often denounced Obama’s tenure as a “disaster.” But in separate post-election remarks on Wednesday both men appeared to seek to help the country heal from a bitterly divisive campaign season, and that tone continued into the White House meeting on Thursday. Seated next to Obama after their talks, Trump told reporters: “We really discussed a lot of situations, some wonderful, some difficulties.” He said Obama explained “some of the great things that have been achieved,” but did not elaborate. “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. After Trump left the White House and traveled to Capitol Hill for meetings with Republican congressional leaders, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters, “The meeting might have been at least a little less awkward than some might have expected.” Obama said he and Trump, a real estate magnate who has never held political office, discussed a range of domestic and foreign policy issues and details related to the transition period. Obama offered assistance to the New York businessman over the next couple months, and urged the country to unite to face its challenges. “We now are going to want to do everything we can to help you succeed because if you succeed, then the country succeeds,” Obama said at the end of the meeting. Their relaxed, cordial demeanor in front of the cameras was in stark contrast to the months of harsh rhetoric during the campaign. Trump criticized Obama’s policies during the campaign, but both Obama and Trump said they sought to change the bitter election tone right after Trump’s unexpected election victory. 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. Asked at a White House briefing on Thursday whether the meeting had eased any of the concerns about Trump that Obama expressed during the campaign, Earnest said, “The president was never in a position to choose a successor. The American people chose his successor.”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” at the meeting, which included Vice President-elect Mike Pence.Pence, who served in the House, is expected to be a conduit between U.S. lawmakers and Trump. Vice President Joe Biden held a separate meeting with Pence at the White House on Thursday.As the current president and next president huddled, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough was seen walking near the Rose Garden with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who like Trump is also a real estate developer, and other aides.Michelle Obama also met privately with Trump’s wife, Melania, in the White House residence.Michelle Obama, who herself was a caustic critic of Trump during several campaign appearances for Clinton, showed Melania Trump the famous Truman Balcony as well as the state floor of the White House. The two women discussed raising children at the White House, Earnest said.
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