Obama Begins Transition With Trump

Obama Begins Transition With Trump
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President Obama, who fiercely opposed Donald Trump and warned Americans the real estate mogul was “uniquely unqualified” to be commander-in-chief, pledged Wednesday to work with his successor to ensure a smooth governing transition.

“We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country,” Obama said in the Rose Garden, joined by Vice President Joe Biden. “The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. And over the next few months, we are going to show that to the world.”

The president will host Trump at the White House Thursday, after offering his congratulations to the president-elect early Wednesday by phone. Obama said he called Trump around 3:30 a.m. and also spoke with his friend Hillary Clinton to express his admiration for the campaign she waged and for her distinguished career in public service.

Clinton conceded defeat during emotional remarks to her supporters Wednesday, describing as “painful” a defeat she had not anticipated. As a close contest ended in the early-morning hours, Clinton watched as states that had not voted in decades for a Republican tilted into the Trump column. Voters embraced the populist, outsider Trump rhetoric, believing establishment politics required a drastic overhaul in gridlocked Washington. She said America was “more divided than I thought.”

Trump will govern with help from Republican majorities in the House and Senate, signaling an abrupt reversal for many of the policies and goals pursued by Obama and fellow Democrats over nearly eight years. Clinton adopted much of Obama’s left-leaning agenda, but came up short. During the campaign, the president pleaded with his base to recognize what he saw as risks to the Supreme Court, the economy, national security, the Affordable Care Act, environmental protections, and the rights of minorities, immigrants and LGBT people -- should Trump become president.

But on Wednesday, Obama stood in the sunshine and attempted to console his anguished aides, Democrats throughout the administration, and the millions of voters who opposed Trump.

“We're actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We're not Democrats first. We're not Republicans first. We are Americans first. We're patriots first,” he said with somewhat forced cheeriness.

Clinton, who maintained her composure in a room full of mournful faces, told her team she was “sorry” about the punishing defeat, but told them the incoming 45th president deserved “an open mind and the chance to lead.”

“I hope he will be a successful president for all Americans,” she said, standing in a New York hotel ballroom with President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea by her side.

In one of the most stunning turnabouts in American politics, Trump, who had no experience in elective office before capturing the White House, defeated the former secretary of state in the Electoral College, although Clinton was still narrowly leading in the popular vote as of Wednesday.

The transition period that officially began Wednesday and continues through Jan. 20 has been in progress since the spring inside the White House and executive agencies. Each nominee assembled teams of designees earlier this year who have worked near the White House, formulating plans to fill thousands of government posts and to pursue policies with Congress and allies around the world from day one. Trump’s team immediately moves to secured space provided by the General Services Administration in downtown Washington and paid for by the taxpayers.

Trump, along with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, and their aides will receive security updates akin to those received by Obama and Biden, and the Democratic administration will brief Trump’s transition team on all matters of national and international importance.

“It is no secret that the president-elect and I have some pretty significant differences,” Obama said, noting that he was in a similar position in 2009 as the incoming Democrat assuming power after the opposing party lost the White House. Nonetheless, experts have assessed the 2009 transition from President George W. Bush’s administration to Obama’s team during two wars and a financial meltdown as one of the most successful and professionally accomplished in modern history.

“President Bush's team could not have been more professional or more gracious in making sure we had a smooth transition so that we could hit the ground running,” he added. “And one thing you realize quickly in this job is that the presidency and the vice presidency is bigger than any of us.”

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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