President Barack Obama will host President-elect Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday in their first public step toward a transition of power after a bitterly fought election campaign that ended with the Republican businessman’s surprise victory.
The two men have had almost no one-on-one contact previously. Trump led the “birther” movement that questioned Obama’s U.S. citizenship and has pledged to overturn the Democrat’s signature policy achievements after he takes office on Jan. 20
Obama campaigned vigorously for Trump’s Democratic rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and called Trump both temperamentally unfit for the presidency and dangerously unprepared to have access to U.S. nuclear codes.
They will seek to put that history behind them, at least for the cameras, during a meeting in the Oval Office at 11 a.m. (12.00 p.m. ET.) First lady Michelle Obama will also meet privately with Trump’s wife, Melania, in the White House residence.
On Wednesday, Obama said that despite his major differences with the New York real estate magnate, he would follow the lead of former Republican President George W. Bush in 2008 and ensure a smooth handover to Trump.
“Eight years ago, President Bush and I had some pretty significant differences, but President Bush’s team could not have been more professional or more gracious in making sure we had a smooth transition,” Obama said. “So I have instructed my team to follow the example that President Bush’s team set.”
Trump spent Wednesday focusing on that transition during meetings with his staff at Trump Tower in New York.
Republican Chris Christie, who is leading Trump’s transition team, on Thursday said the White House meeting would be “great” and pointed to the tone of unity in Trump’s election victory speech.
“We heard a lot about the peaceful transfer of power during this election, and I think you’ll see that symbolized today,” Christie told NBC’s “Today” program.
Asked whether Trump would apologize to the president for questioning his birthplace and legitimacy, the New Jersey governor said the controversy was just politics, adding: “They have a lot more important things to talk about.”
After taking office, Trump will enjoy Republican majorities in both chambers of the U.S. Congress that could help him implement his legislative agenda and scrap or roll back Obama policies that he dislikes, such as the Affordable Care Act, the nuclear deal with Iran and U.S. participation in the Paris agreement to fight global warming.
TRANSITION OF POWER
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama would brief Trump about the benefits of those policies during their meeting.
“There is a tradition, particularly with regard to executive agreements, of successive presidents preserving some element of continuity,” Earnest said. “I don’t know whether or not that will fly in this case.”
Trump said after his victory that he would work to heal the divisions set off by the bitter campaign. Clinton urged her disappointed supporters to give Trump an “open mind” and Obama said he was rooting for his successor.
The White House has laid out its plan to ensure a smooth transition, including giving representatives selected by Trump briefings on the work of U.S. federal agencies.
Trump and his senior aides will also start to receive daily briefings by U.S. intelligence officials, the White House said. The Obama administration also plans two “interagency exercises” for Trump’s team aimed at handling and responding “to major domestic incidents.”
Later on Thursday, Trump will also meet with Republican U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan near the U.S. Capitol, according to a Republican source. The two men shared a strained relationship during the campaign, although they both ultimately said they supported each other.
Trump and Ryan will “discuss how they can hit the ground running in a Trump administration” at the meeting, which will also include Vice President-elect Mike Pence, the Republican source said.
Pence, who served in the House, is expected to be a conduit between U.S. lawmakers and Trump, who has never before held public office. Vice President Joe Biden will hold a separate meeting with Pence at the White House on Thursday.