President-elect Donald Trump met with President Obama for an hour-and-a-half Thursday, saying it was a “great honour” to finally get together with the leader he has vilified for years.
Trump flew from LaGuardia on his private jet — emblazoned with his name on the fuselage — and landed at Reagan National Airport, just outside the US capital, about 10:30 a.m. for the historic sit-down, the New York Post reported.
Obama said the pair had an excellent conversation about domestic and foreign policy, and that the number one priority is creating a smooth transition.
“I just had the opportunity to have an excellent conversation with President-elect Trump. It was wide-ranging. We talked about some of the organisational issues in setting up the White House,” Obama said.
“We talked about foreign policy. We talked about domestic policy. I have been very encouraged by the interest in President-elect Trump’s wanting to work with my team around many of the issues that this great country faces. And I believe that it is important for all of us, regardless of party, and regardless of political preferences, to now come together, work together, to deal with the many challenges that we face.”
Obama said he wanted Trump to succeed because if he does, the country will succeed as well.
Trump also struck a conciliatory note, saying he had “great respect” for the president, whom he had previously described as a weak leader.
“This was a meeting that was going to last for maybe 10 or 15 minutes and we were just going to get to know each other. We had never met each other. The meeting lasted for almost an hour-and-a-half, and it could have, as far as I’m concerned, it could have gone on for a lot longer,” Trump said.
The Manhattan mogul said they discussed a number of topics, “some wonderful and some difficulties.”
And he said he looked forward to working with Obama in the future and seeking his “counsel.”
“Mr. President, it was a great honour being with you, and I look forward to being with you many more times in the future,” he concluded.
The president and his successor took no questions from reporters and both broke into smiles when Obama told the press it was time to leave.
While the billionaire businessman huddled with the president in the Oval Office, his wife Melania was meeting privately with the first lady Michelle Obama.
From the White House, Trump will travel to Capitol Hill for separate meetings with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The symbolic White House meeting was seen as a message to the public that there will be a smooth transition from an Obama to a Trump administration.
But the optics can’t conceal the fact that the two men harbour enormous antipathy toward one another.
Obama repeatedly said during the campaign that Trump was singularly unqualified to be commander in chief, while Trump rankled the president for years by questioning whether he was born in the US.
It’s also the first time the pair met in the same room since the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner — when the president mocked Trump’s bizarre obsession with his birthplace.
Obama said then that since he had disclosed his birth certificate, the billionaire businessman could turn his attention to more pressing matters.
“Now, I know that he’s taken some flak lately, but no one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than The Donald,” Obama said.
“And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter — like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?”
Vice President-elect Mike Pence accompanied Trump to DC and was meeting separately with Veep Joe Biden.
Trump refused to let journalists travel with him to cover his first meeting with Obama.
News organisations had tried for weeks to coordinate a pool of journalists who could travel with Trump immediately after Election Day if he won the election.
But his campaign did not cooperate and his senior advisers refused to discuss any such arrangements.
Also Thursday, Trump invited British Prime Minister Theresa May, leader of the UK’s Conservative Party, to visit as soon as possible, saying that they agreed to build on the “very special” relationship between the longtime allies.
“The prime minister and President-elect Trump agreed that the US-UK relationship was very important and very special, and that building on this would be a priority for them both,” said Laura Palts, an embassy spokeswoman.
“President-elect Trump set out his close and personal connections with, and warmth for, the UK.”
In the 24 hours after winning the election, Trump spoke with the leaders of Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, Israel, Turkey, India, Japan, Australia and South Korea.
Before he spoke with May, Trump had invited the Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny to the White House for St. Patrick’s Day in 2017.
He also arranged to meet Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, next week, prior to an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.