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Obama, Trump meet to ease transition – Hands bridge troubled waters

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US President Barack Obama shakes hands with President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Nov 10. (AP)
US President Barack Obama shakes hands with President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Nov 10. (AP)

WASHINGTON, Nov 10, (Agencies): Barack Obama and his successor Donald Trump held a 90-minute transition meeting in the Oval Office Thursday, with the outgoing president vowing his support after an “excellent conversation.” The Democratic US leader told the Republican president-elect his administration would “do everything we can to help you succeed, because if you succeed, then the country succeeds.” Obama said his talks with the billionaire political novice, held barely 36 hours after his upset election victory over the Democrat Hillary Clinton, were “wide-ranging.” “We talked about foreign policy. We talked about domestic policy,” Obama said. “We talked about some of the organizational issues in setting up the White House.” Trump said the pair “discussed a lot of different situations — some wonderful and some difficulties,” and that he looked forward to receiving Obama’s advice as he readies to assume office in January.

“This was a meeting that was going to last for maybe 10 or 15 minutes,” Trump said. “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.” “I have great respect,” he added, saying: “I very much look forward to dealing with the president in the future, including counsel.” The two men ended the historic White House encounter with a handshake and refused to take questions.

The meeting had potential to be an awkward one — the two had traded barbs during the heated campaign for the White House, with Obama describing the celebrity businessman as “uniquely unqualified” to be president. The two men, who have been harshly critical of each other for years, were meeting for the first time, Trump said. The Republican called Obama a “very good man” and said he looked forward “to dealing with the president in the future, including counsel.”

Obama blasted Trump throughout the campaign as unfit to serve as a commander in chief. Trump spent years challenging the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency, falsely suggesting Obama may have been born outside the United States. But at least publicly, the two men appeared to put aside their animosity.

As the meeting concluded and journalists scrambled out of the Oval Office, Obama smiled at his successor and explained the unfolding scene.

If Trump makes good on his campaign promises, he’ll wipe away much of what Obama has done during his eight years in office. The Republican president-elect, who will govern with Congress fully under GOP control, has vowed to repeal Obama’s signature health care law and dismantle the landmark nuclear accord with Iran. First lady Michelle Obama also met privately in the White House residence with Trump’s wife, Melania, while Vice President Joe Biden prepared to see Vice President-elect Mike Pence later Thursday.

Trump traveled to Washington from New York on his private jet, breaking with protocol by not bringing journalists in his motorcade or on his plane to  document his historic visit to the White House. Trump was harshly critical of the media during his campaign and for a time banned news organizations whose coverage he disliked from his events.

From the White House, Trump headed to Capitol Hill for meetings with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to discuss the GOP legislative agenda.

Ryan, who holds the most powerful post in Congress, was a sometime critic of Trump, was slow to endorse him and did not campaign with the nominee. Pence intended to join both meetings. As scores of journalists waited to be admitted to the Oval Office to see Obama and Trump together, they saw White House chief of staff Denis Mc- Donough walking along the South Lawn driveway with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. A handful of Trump aides trailed them.

The show of civility at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue contrasted with postelection scenes of protests across a politically divided country. Demonstrators from New England to the heartland and the West Coast vented against the election winner on Wednesday, chanting “Not my president,” burning a papier-mache Trump head, beating a Trump pinata and carrying signs that said “Impeach Trump.” Republicans were emboldened by Trump’s stunning victory over Hillary Clinton, giving the GOP control of the White House and both chambers of Congress. “He just earned a mandate,” Ryan said. In an emotional concession speech, Clinton said her crushing loss was “painful and it will be for a long time” and acknowledged that the nation was “more divided than we thought.” Still, Clinton was gracious in defeat, declaring: “Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.”

In Washington, Trump’s scant transition team sprang into action, culling through personnel lists for top jobs and working through handover plans for government agencies. A person familiar with the transition operations said the personnel process was still in its early stages, but Trump’s team was putting a premium on quickly filling key national security posts. The person was not authorized to discuss details by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

According to an organizational chart for the transition obtained by The Associated Press, Trump was relying on experienced hands to help form his administration. National security planning was being led by former Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, who previously worked for the FBI. Domestic issues were being handled by Ken Blackwell, a former Cincinnati mayor and Ohio secretary of state. Trump was expected to consider several loyal supporters for top jobs, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for attorney general or national security adviser and campaign finance chairman Steve Mnuchin for Treasury secretary. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Tennessee Sen Bob Corker were also expected to be under consideration for foreign policy posts. As president-elect, Trump is entitled to get the same daily intelligence briefing as Obama — one that includes information on US covert operations, information gleaned about world leaders and other data gathered by America’s 17 intelligence agencies. The White House said it would organize two exercises involving multiple agencies to help Trump’s team learn how to respond to major domestic incidents.

A day after Trump’s election to the presidency, campaign divisions appeared to widen as many thousands of demonstrators — some with signs declaring “NOT MY PRESIDENT” — flooded streets across the country to protest his surprise triumph. From New England to heartland cities like Kansas City and along the West Coast, demonstrators bore flags and effigies of the president-elect, disrupting traffic and declaring that they refused to accept Trump’s victory. Flames lit up the night sky in California cities Wednesday as thousands of protesters burned a giant papier-mache Trump head in Los Angeles and started fires in Oakland intersections. Los Angeles demonstrators also beat a Trump piñata and sprayed the Los Angeles Times building and news vans with anti-Trump profanity.

One protester outside LA City Hall read a sign that simply said “this is very bad.” Vishal Singh, 23, said he was disappointed with voters who supported a man he sees as anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT. “I expected better of my electorate,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “I thought this country was different.” Late in the evening several hundred people blocked one of the city’s busiest freeways, US 101 between downtown and Hollywood. More than a dozen people were arrested as officers in full riot gear walked the protesters off the freeway. In Orange County, about 10 people were arrested after three police cars were damaged during rallies in Santa Ana. To the north in Oakland, several thousand people clogged intersections and freeway on-ramps. Nearby in Berkeley, more than 1,000 students walked out of high school classes Wednesday, brandishing anti-Trump signs and Mexican flags. The students tweeted #NotMy- President and vowed to unify.

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