President Barack Obama is set to welcome his successor, Donald Trump, to the White House, extending an olive branch to the man whom he blasted as unfit to serve as commander in chief and who led the charge to challenge the legitimacy of Obama’s own presidency. Thursday’s Oval Office meeting is the symbolic start of the transition of power from Obama, a Democrat who ushered in a sweeping health care law and brokered a landmark nuclear accord with Iran, and Trump, a Republican who has promised to wipe away those initiatives. Trump takes office on Jan. 20.
First lady Michelle Obama was to meet privately in the White House residence with Trump’s wife, Melania, while Vice President Joe Biden prepared to see Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
Trump departed New York Thursday morning, breaking 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.
Also on Trump’s schedule were 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.
The anticipated 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.”