Conceding his party's staggering electoral defeat, President Barack Obama on Wednesday invited President-elect Donald Trump to meet with him to discuss the handover of power from his administration to Trump's.
Obama then urged Americans to accept the result of the election with good faith in a speech in the White House Rose Garden Wednesday afternoon, with Vice President Joe Biden standing at his side.
"We all go forward with the presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens, because that presumption of good faith is essential to a vibrant and functioning democracy," Obama said, in remarks that noted how professional President George W. Bush and his staff were in handing power to him eight years ago.
He pledged to have his staff follow Bush's example: "We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country."
The White House said Obama called the Republican in the early hours of the morning to congratulate him on his victory in the presidential campaign, which marked a forceful rebuke by voters to Obama's eight years in office. The two leaders planned to meet Thursday at the White House, where Obama was to update Trump about ongoing planning for the transition.
Obama's speech at the White House was his first public reaction to Trump's victory. Chipper, even joking with Biden, Obama said he was proud of Clinton for the race she ran and told the young people who may be discouraged by the result of the election to "stay encouraged" and not be cynical.
"Everybody is sad when their side loses an election, but the day after, we have to remember that we're all on one team," he said.
Later, he added, "Sometimes you lose an argument, sometimes you lose an election. The path this country is on has never been a straight one, we zig and zag."
For Obama, the act of holding the meeting with Trump is a humbling blow to his legacy and to his hopes for leaving a lasting imprint on the nation's policies. Trump has vowed to rip up much of what Obama accomplished, including his signature health care law, the Iran nuclear deal and a painstakingly negotiated trade deal with Asia.
Obama also called Hillary Clinton after it became clear she'd lost the race. The White House said Obama had "expressed admiration for the strong campaign she waged throughout the country."
It was unclear how substantive Obama's call was with Trump, or how long it lasted, although the White House noted that Obama placed the call from his residence in the White House, rather than from the West Wing.
Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, described it as a "warm conversation" and a "gracious exchange." She said Trump had missed the president's original call as Trump was speaking to supporters in New York, then called him back after leaving the stage.
Like Clinton and other Democrats, Obama didn't appear to see Trump's victory coming. As he campaigned vigorously for Clinton in the race's final days, Obama said he was confident that if Americans showed up to vote, they'd choose against electing the billionaire former reality TV star with no formal government experience.
He had also warned supporters in apocalyptic terms that "the fate of the republic" rested on Clinton defeating Trump on Election Day.
Joining Obama in congratulating Trump were Hillary Clinton, who said in an emotional speech her supporters "owe him an open mind and a chance to lead," and both Bush presidents.
George W. Bush, who did not vote for president this year, said in a statement that he called Trump Wednesday and that he and his wife Laura wished the president elect and his family "our very best as they take on an awesome responsibility."
Bush's father, George H.W. Bush also called with congratulations. Spokesman Jim McGrath said said Bush repeatedly "wished Trump 'good luck on your new challenge.'" He wouldn't say how Bush voted.