Four Years Later, a Look Back at Obama and Trump's First White House Meeting

Virginia Chamlee
·4 min read

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais Then-President-elect Donald Trump (left) sits with President Barack Obama at the White House on Nov. 10, 2016.

Exactly four years ago, then-President-elect Donald Trump sat across from then-President Barack Obama in the Oval Office as the two recounted their first transition meeting to reporters just minutes after it took place.

"This was a meeting that was going to last for maybe 10 or 15 minutes ... The meeting lasted for almost an hour and a half," said Trump, notably conciliatory after a bruising campaign and a political career built on deriding Obama.

"As far as I'm concerned, it could have gone on for a lot longer," Trump said then.

The moment was remarkable considering the circumstances, but unexpectedly tame.

Trump, appearing jovial if not a bit taken aback by the circumstances, sat side-by-side with the man he had criticized and falsely accused of not being born in the United States.

Obama — who, before meeting Trump hadn't minced words about the effect a Trump administration might have on the American public — welcomed him in the Oval Office with a smile, expressing gratitude that the two could come together despite their differences in a continuation of the country's tradition of democratic transition between presidents.

"I just had the opportunity to have an excellent conversation with President-elect Trump. It was wide-ranging," Obama told reporters. "We talked about some of the organizational issues in setting up a White House. We talked about foreign policy, we talked about domestic policy."

"As I said last night, my No. 1 priority in the coming two months is to try to facilitate a transition that ensures that the President Trump is successful," Obama said.

At the same time, then-Vice President Joe Biden met with Vice President-elect Mike Pence. "They spoke about their time working together in Congress and their friendship dating back many years," Biden's office said in a press release at the time.

"The Vice President again offered his full support to the Vice President-elect in order to ensure a smooth and seamless transition of power," Biden's office said. "The Vice President and Vice President-elect chatted about their families, and the Vice President renewed his invitation for the entire Pence family to join him and Dr. Biden for dinner at the [Biden residency at the] Naval Observatory."

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Flash-forward four years and Trump, now himself an outgoing president after Democratic nominee Biden beat him in last week's election, has so far refused to concede defeat, expressing virtually no interest in trying to facilitate a transition of his own while insisting without providing evidence that Biden stole the election.

Since Election Day, Trump has attacked the veracity of the country's electoral system, alleging voter fraud for Biden and "ballot counting abuse" despite offering no proof.

Even as every major network and the Associated Press projected Biden to be the winner of the race (based on vote counts from every state), Trump has continued to claim it was rigged against him.

At times he has attacked the concept of voting itself — particularly via mail ballots.

In the lead-up to the 2016 election and during that year's Republican primary, Trump made similar claims of a "rigged" election, though he abandoned those allegations once he was announced as the winner.

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The Trump campaign has filed or threatened to file lawsuits across the country in their effort to, as the president said, "ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated."

Some of those same legal attempts have already failed, however.

While there are parts of the country that are still counting ballots — as has historically been the case — and some states are poised to undergo a recount, those votes likely wouldn't be enough to swing the election in Trump's favor given Biden's margin of victory, experts say.

Based on current vote totals, analysts project Biden will likely win the election with some 51.3 percent of the popular vote and at least 290 electoral votes (only 270 are needed to win).

World leaders (including former American presidents) and many U.S. officials have congratulated Biden on his win, though some leading Republicans have stayed quiet as Trump presses his case.