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Politics & Government

Trump Begins Transition By Visiting The White House, Capitol Hill

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We want to make sure they feel welcome - that's what President Obama said yesterday as he hosted Donald and Melania Trump at the White House. At a moment when many critics of Trump were in agony or even protesting in the streets, President Obama made a dramatic gesture of national unity and also got started on the practical business of a transition. NPR's Scott Detrow is covering this story. He's in our studios. Good morning, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Even Trump seemed surprised.

DETROW: Yeah, this was - I mean, what a stunning scene. Trump, remember, began his political career de-legitimizing Obama, saying he wasn't born in America. President Obama just spent the last few months on the campaign trail saying Donald Trump is a threat to democracy, he wouldn't be capable of controlling the nuclear codes. And yesterday, they sat in the Oval Office together for an hour and a half. I mean, both men said very positive things about each other in that brief period where the press was there. Here's one thing that Donald Trump said.

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DONALD TRUMP: I very much look forward to dealing with the president in the future, including counsel.

DETROW: Much different than what he said about President Obama when campaigning. You know, President Obama was really proud of how he and President Bush worked together to transfer power eight years ago. He wants to do the same thing here.

INSKEEP: And you realize that even though Trump wants to overturn much of what Obama's ever done, they now both share this bond. They've each accomplish something that very few men - and they've all been men up to now - have ever done. Now, after that was over, he goes and he meets - Trump goes and he meets with leaders of Congress. How'd that go?

DETROW: Again, it seemed to go pretty well. And, again, there's more whiplash here because Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both kept their distance from Trump all campaign. They endorsed, but didn't really campaign. They criticized him. And now they're partners. And just listen to this from Speaker Ryan after that meeting with President-Elect Trump.

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PAUL RYAN: 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. And we are now talking about how we're going to hit the ground running to make sure that we can get this country turned around and make America great again.

DETROW: I mean, the way that that Speaker Ryan basically told House Republicans they could do what they would with Trump's candidacy just a few weeks ago, it's hard to hear him saying that phrase now - or hard to imagine at the time, rather. But that's how governing works, and these are two of the most important Republicans, and they have a lot of similar things they want to get done.

INSKEEP: And this was Paul Ryan's case for endorsing Donald Trump despite their disagreements, was that he thought he could get legislation that Paul Ryan liked to his desk and get it signed. So what are the early policy goals here?

DETROW: One thing that President-Elect Trump said to reporters after he met with speaker - or, rather, Leader McConnell was that he wants to work on immigration, work on securing the border. He said health care. I think you can interpret that as repealing Obamacare.

INSKEEP: Yeah.

DETROW: He also said they're looking at jobs. In a Trump phrase, he said big-league jobs. Trump also talked about tax cuts. But, you know, campaign promises can end up looking very different than laws and policies, and we got an example of that yesterday. Newt Gingrich did a conference call sponsored by a law firm he does work for. And he was - he was talk - he was talking about what could come next.

And he was asked about that promise to build a wall on the border and make Mexico pay for it. Gingrich said it could look very different. And he said border security would be key; it's not all going to be a wall like the Great Wall of China. And this got some attention. He said Trump's going to spend a lot of time securing the border. He may not spend much time trying to get Mexico to pay for it, but Gingrich said that was a great campaign device.

INSKEEP: Also a great campaign device to denounce lobbyists, and he's now bringing in lobbyists to help with his transition team. That's NPR's Scott Detrow covering the presidential transition. Scott, thanks very much.

DETROW: No problem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.