(Reuters) WASHINGTON 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 to discuss the transition to the Republican’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 election 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 businessman had often dubbed Obama’s eight-year tenure 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, and that tone continued into the White House meeting.
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 really great things that have been achieved,” but did not elaborate.
“It was a great honour 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.
Trump, a real estate magnate who has never held political office, later met congressional leaders, including U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican who has had a strained relationship with the party’s presidential candidate.
Amid those efforts to bury hatchets, there were scattered protests in a string of U.S. cities against Trump for a second day on Thursday. Security fences were erected around Trump’s new hotel in Washington, just blocks from the White House, and around New York’s Trump Tower as students protested his election.
Obama said he had offered assistance to Trump over the next couple of 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, adding he and Trump discussed a range of domestic and foreign policy issues and details related to the transition period.