Party leaders rolled out the red carpet for the new president-elect on Thursday, showing him around the city that the Manhattan billionaire businessman and reality TV star will call home for the next four years.
Half the country is still shell-shocked over the populist outsider’s historic upset of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCountering the ongoing Republican delusion Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Poll: Democracy is under attack, and more violence may be the future MORE two days ago, and large protests have broken out in major cities across the country as Democrats imagine with horror a Trump administration.
But the real-estate mogul’s daylong meetings with President Obama at the White House and with top GOP leaders on Capitol Hill served to give Trump legitimacy as the nation’s incoming 45th president and symbolized the first step in the peaceful transfer of power.
The images of Trump schmoozing with Washington elites in the rooms and halls of power were jarring. Trump, perhaps the most famous "birther" of all, had questioned whether Obama had been born in Kenya and whether he was a legitimate president.
But during their first face-to-face meeting, Obama and Trump offered praise for one another and said they were both committed to a smooth presidential transition. It was supposed to be a quick 15 minute meet-and-greet but ran an hour and a half, and Trump told reporters he could have stayed even longer.
“I have great respect,” Trump said of Obama, adding that he planned to seek Obama’s “counsel” in the future.
“My No. 1 priority in the coming two months is to try to facilitate a transition that ensures our president-elect is successful,” added Obama, who like Trump was seated in a high-backed armchair, an arrangement typically reserved for heads of state.
Then Trump was off to Capitol Hill. Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanNo time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' MORE (R-Wis.), who repeatedly clashed with Trump during the campaign, hosted Trump, his wife Melania, and Vice President-elect Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence-linked group launches 0K ad campaign in West Virginia praising Manchin Jan. 6 panel releases contempt report on Trump DOJ official ahead of censure vote Pence calls for Roe v. Wade to be sent to 'ash heap of history' ahead of abortion ruling MORE for a buffet lunch at the Capitol Hill Club.
Onlookers gawked as Trump’s massive motorcade rolled by. A woman, almost in tears at the result of the election, gave the finger to a man across the street holding a sign reading “Thank you Melania!” Another man screaming “f--- you!” at Trump was handcuffed.
A second Ryan stop was added at the last minute when Ryan offered to give Trump a tour of the site where he would be sworn in as president Jan. 20 on the East Front of the Capitol. Ryan escorted the Trumps and Pence to the Speaker’s balcony, where he pointed to landmarks and monuments on the D.C. skyline.
One of those happened to be the Old Post Office Building, now the new Trump International Hotel, which is straight down Pennsylvania Avenue. Trump will drive or walk past his hotel on his way to the White House after the swearing-in ceremony.
“Beautiful. Really, really beautiful,” Trump said of the view from Ryan’s office.
Ryan has called Trump’s proposed Muslim ban unconstitutional, condemned Trump’s attacks on a Mexican-American federal judge as “textbook” racism and said he could not longer defend or campaign with Trump after a tape emerged last month of Trump bragging about groping women.
But Ryan was willing to look past all that after the GOP’s clean sweep on Election Night. The Speaker and 10-term congressman — part of the D.C. establishment that Trump has railed at countless times on the campaign trail — even adopted Trump’s campaign slogan during their powwow Thursday. It’s the latest sign that Ryan is hitching his wagon to the provocative and pugnacious president-elect.
“Donald Trump had one of the most impressive victories we’ve ever seen. And we’re going to turn that victory into progress for the American people,” said Ryan, flanked by Trump and Pence. “And we are now talking about how to hit the ground running and make sure we get this country turned around and make America great again.”
Across the Capitol, Trump and Pence huddled with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate nearing deal on defense bill after setback On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Schumer eyeing Build Back Better vote as soon as week of Dec. 13 MORE (R-Ky.), who during the campaign season said it was his prerogative not to answer any questions about his party’s controversial nominee.
Reporters were told the president-elect wouldn’t stop for any questions but then again, this was Donald Trump.
“A lot of really great priorities. People will be very, very happy. Well, we have a lot," said Trump, stopping in the historic Ohio Clock hallway, lined with portraits of long-dead senators and the busts of vice presidents past. “We're looking very strongly at immigration. We're going to look at the borders, very importantly, we're looking very strongly at healthcare and we're looking at jobs.
“Big league jobs.”