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Second Night of Anti-Trump Protests; Interview With Arizona Senator Jeff Flake; Trump and Obama Meet in Oval Office; NAACP President Speaks out on Trump's Election. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired November 10, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The handshake. President-elect Trump meets with President Obama in the Oval Office, the two men sending a message of civility and unity to a divided nation and an anxious world. What do they say when the cameras were not rolling?
The handoff. Trump gets the lay of the land up on Capitol Hill, setting the stage to try to push his agenda through Congress. We will take you inside his talks with the Republican leaders, who haven't always seen eye to eye with their new standard-bearer.
Fear and loathing. Opponent of Donald Trump take to the streets in multiple cities. They're venting their anger about the outcome of the election and their worries that Trump will trample on their rights.
And from rancor to respect. The current and future presidents have said lots of ugly things about one another. We will take a closer look at their sudden transition from political sparring partners to peacemakers.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, Donald Trump in the Oval Office, getting his first taste of the power and the responsibility he's now taking on, only 71 days from now, the president-elect meeting face-to- face with President Obama for the first time ever.
The political -- bitter political opponents setting aside their animosity in a scene that would have been hard to imagine just two days ago. Mr. Trump also visited Capitol Hill, getting a bird's-eye view of the stage where he will be sworn in as president, with House Speaker Paul Ryan as his tour guide.
Trump discussing the legislative priorities with Republican leaders, with no firm guarantees the GOP majority in Congress will pass some of his more controversial proposals.
As Washington moves forward with a peaceful transition, a very different mood on the streets of some 25 cities overnight, thousands of Americans turning out to demonstrate their outrage over Trump's election, the promise of more protests a vivid reminder of the challenge the new president will face if he hopes to bring the country together.
I will talk about the transition and Trump's agenda with Republican senator Jeff Flake, and the president and CEO of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks. They're standing by, along with our correspondents and analysts as we cover the day's top stories.
Up first, let's go to our CNN White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, so far in this transition, the Trump and Obama camps seem to be sticking to their scripts.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So far, Wolf, that's right.
White House officials here tell me that their views have not changed on Donald Trump. But senior administration officials from the president on down are devoting their final weeks in office to ensuring this smooth transition of power to the incoming Trump administration, and that was very much the spirit in the air here at the White House, as the president and the president-elect came face to face.
ACOSTA (voice-over): It was an image designed to calm a nervous world, the president and the president-elect fresh off the political battlefield sitting together in the Oval Office, calling on a divided nation to come together.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And most of all, I want to emphasize to you, Mr. President-elect, that we now are going to want to do everything we can to help you succeed, because, if you succeed, then the country succeeds.
ACOSTA: Following his 90-minute meeting with President Obama, Donald Trump offered his own display of restraint and respect.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I very much look forward to dealing with the president in the future, including counsel. He has explained some of the difficulties, some of the high-flying assets, and some of the really great things that have been achieved.
So, Mr. President, it was a great honor being with you. And I look forward to being with you many, many more times in the future.
ACOSTA: And as reporters were ushered out of the room, Trump added one more compliment for the president.
TRUMP: Very good man.
ACOSTA: And even got a little advice from the man.
OBAMA: Here's a good rule. Don't answer questions when they just start yelling.
TRUMP: It's always the last one.
ACOSTA: Away from the news cameras, first lady Michelle Obama and soon-to-be-first-lady Melania Trump met in private, as two key transition figures, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Trump's son-in-law top aide Jared Kushner went for a long stroll on the South Lawn.
It was all a far cry from the down-and-dirty campaign that just wrapped up earlier this week.
OBAMA: If his closest advisers don't trust him to tweet, why would any of us trust him with the nuclear codes?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ACOSTA: Mr. Obama argued Trump was unfit for the White House only weeks after the GOP nominee finally conceded the president was an American citizen.
TRUMP: President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.
ACOSTA: Their last encounter face to face came when the president mocked the idea of a Trump administration five years ago.
OBAMA: Say what you will about Mr. Trump. He would certainly bring change to the White House. Let's see what we have got up there.
ACOSTA: The president-elect also stopped by the Capitol, where House Speaker Paul Ryan gave him the view from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, where he also met Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to start plotting the GOP agenda.
Trump's stunning rise to power has sent shockwaves around the world, sparking protests in cities across the U.S.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Not my president, not today!
ACOSTA: Top Trump advisers like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are trying to lower the temperature, suggesting the new president will not seek to imprison Hillary Clinton, as he suggested during the campaign.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Politics are over now. People have spoken. Time to move to uniting the country.
ACOSTA: Though Rudy Giuliani made it clear Trump is determined to carry out his plans, including that wall on the Mexican border. RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: The wall is going to
take a while. I'm sure he's going to build it. It's a campaign promise.
ACOSTA: And in another sign that this is a transition of work in progress, Vice President Joe Biden met with the vice president-elect, Mike Pence, earlier this afternoon.
But, Wolf, it seems that the incoming Trump administration is going to have to get accustomed to some norms that are in place here in Washington. Donald Trump, we're told by an aide, left Washington earlier this afternoon, got on his plane, returned to New York City without any reporters being told that the president-elect was leaving Washington.
He arrived at La Guardia earlier this evening and then presumably went back to Trump Tower. Wolf, as you know, that is sort of outside the norms of what we expect when we cover a president-elect. It is expected that a pool of reporters is kept abreast of his movements at all times.
That did not occur in this case, Wolf. But Donald Trump simply left the city without anybody in the media even knowing about it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, that's unacceptable. They have got to fix that. As a former White House correspondent, it's truly unacceptable. The president-elect and the president, a pool of reporters should be with him on a trip like that.
All right, thanks very much, Jim Acosta, for that report.
One final question before I let you go, Jim. We're also getting our first glimpse of Hillary Clinton since her concession speech. What are you learning about that?
ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf. It's kind of an amazing thing. A woman ran into Hillary Clinton apparently going for a walk in the woods today and took this picture. You can see it up on screen there, posted it on her Facebook page. Her friend posted this picture of her friend on her Facebook page showing Hillary Clinton there going for a walk in the woods.
As you said, it is the first image we're seeing of the former secretary of state and former Democratic nominee going in front of a camera since her concession speech earlier this week.
And, Wolf, it's just sort of a remarkable turn of events. One person gets to come to the White House and meet with the president. Another goes for a walk in the woods -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, she's walking her dog near Chappaqua near her home there, obviously, a remarkable contrast. Her opponent, Donald Trump, meeting in the Oval Office with the president of the United States. She's walking her dog, meets some person there and grabs a picture. That's really, really remarkable, when you think about...
ACOSTA: That's the way it goes, yes.
BLITZER: ... all the history and the drama unfolding over these past few days.
Jim Acosta, thanks for that report.
Let's dig a little bit deeper now into president-elect Trump's discussions with the Republican congressional leadership.
Our senior political reporter, Manu Raju, is joining us from up on Capitol Hill.
So, Manu, did they get into specifics about Mr. Trump's legislative agenda?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They did, Wolf.
This was a meeting all intended to showcase unity, unity between the Republican nominee and the Republican leadership, which we have not really seen a whole lot of in this election cycle, but both sides wanting to show that they're going to be on the side page legislatively when Donald Trump takes office next year.
They talked about some -- several key big-ticket items. They talked about immigration, health care, the economy, and also the Supreme Court came up as well in the meeting with Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader.
Now, after that meeting with Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump walked through the halls of the Senate and he was asked about his meeting. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have a lot of priorities, a lot of really great priorities. People will be very, very happy.
QUESTION: What are the top three?
TRUMP: We have a lot. We're going to look very strongly at immigration. We're going to look at the border, very important. We're going to look very strongly at health care. And we're looking at jobs, big league jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, they cut short that gaggle, Wolf, after he was asked a question about whether or not he would ask Congress to approve his ban on Muslims. He didn't answer that question. He said, "Thank you, and then he walked away.
And on immigration, it's unclear exactly what he means by that, whether or not he's going to push for that border wall with Mexico that he campaigned on so aggressively on the campaign trail. I can tell you both Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell in the past have expressed reservations about that. In fact, yesterday, at a press conference, Wolf, I asked Mitch McConnell three times about whether he supports that wall with Mexico, and he just would not answer the question -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And, very quickly, that image we saw of them on the balcony of the speaker's office up on Capitol Hill, a powerful picture when they walked outside and looked at the Mall in Washington. You have stood up there. I have too. It really is an amazing sight.
RAJU: It really is an amazing sight. And it was an effort by Paul Ryan to show that we're on the same page, we're on the same team, we're going to work very closely together.
Remember, this was a very divisive campaign within the Republican Party. At one point, Paul Ryan had said that he was longer going to defend or campaign with Donald Trump. That was after that release of that "Access Hollywood" video.
But, in recent weeks, he's changed his tune. He talked more openly about Donald Trump, and today a real effort to showcase unity between the Republican president, soon to be president, and the Republican speaker, because that partnership is going to be critical to getting things enacted for the Republican Party in the next four years, Wolf.
BLITZER: Certainly will be. All right, Manu, thanks very much, Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.
Let's talk a little bit with a Republican senator who was a very vocal critic of Donald Trump during the campaign. We're talking about Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, who is joining us live.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Thanks for having me on.
BLITZER: So, you were a pretty vocal opponent of Donald Trump's. You even going as far to tell your fellow Republicans to distance themselves from him.
But after his win, you tweeted this, and I will put it on the screen. You tweeted: "Congrats to president-elect Trump on a big win and a gracious and healing speech. I look forward to working with him. Now back to eating crow."
What do you think? Do you think Trump really wants to work with you? Have you spoken to him or anyone on his team?
FLAKE: I have not spoke on the him yet, but the speech that he gave was encouraging right after he won.
I thought it was a gracious and healing speech. And if he governs that way, I think it will be good for the country and good for all of us.
BLITZER: The Senate majority leader, your leader, Mitch McConnell, said it's always a mistake to misread your mandate, and wouldn't say if he was with Trump on supporting, for example, funding a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump tweeted this about you, about you in September. This was this past September. "The Republican Party needs strong and committed leaders, not weak people such as Jeff Flake. It's going to stop illegal immigration."
So, assuming Mexico doesn't pay for the wall, would you vote in favor of funding building a wall with Mexico?
FLAKE: Well, the bill that we passed out of the Senate, the so-called Gang of 8 bill, had funding for 750 miles fencing, barriers, in some places wall, in some places virtual fencing, surveillance and infrastructure.
So, we have already done that. It's not going to be the type of wall that some envisioned that goes for 2,500 miles. But we obviously need better border security. I just think we need other things as well, interior endorsement, a mechanism to deal with those who are here illegally, and, you know, a guest worker plan moving ahead. So, we will fight for those things as well.
BLITZER: Yes, that Gang of 8 you were talking about, comprehensive immigration reform, you had Republicans, you had Democrats. In the end, it died.
Let's talk about your state, Arizona. Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, the premiums could skyrocket in your state, Arizona, 116 percent next year. Do you support Donald Trump's repeated statements he will repeal and replace Obamacare? And, if so, what would happen to the more than 200,000 people in Arizona who are already insured thanks to Obamacare? Especially what happens to those who do have preexisting conditions?
Well, a lot of them are covered simply by expanding Medicaid. But we do have to find a way to ensure that those with preexisting conditions can find affordable care. But Obamacare in Arizona has been a disaster. And we hear horror stories every day about increased premiums, massive co-pays and deductibles that make it completely unaffordable.
And you're right. They're talking about 116 percent increases in some areas, depending on the county and the provider. We have 15 counties in Arizona. Fourteen of them have only one provider. So there's no choice. And it's just simply unaffordable. So, we have got to move ahead with this.
BLITZER: So, you are in favor of repealing and replacing Obamacare?
FLAKE: You bet. Yes. [18:15:00]
I have been since the beginning. Obviously, we have got to find a way to deal with those with preexisting conditions, make sure that they can find affordable care. But we have got to make sure that people can afford their coverage. And, right now, it is unaffordable in Arizona.
BLITZER: How do you do that? Do you have a specific plan to replace it with something better, or is it just a plan that needs a lot of consideration?
FLAKE: Well, there are a number of plans that have been put forward on the Republican side that have various elements.
I assume that what we go with will be a combination of it. But in the coming two months, certainly, we're going to be fleshing those plans out and making sure that, as soon as we repeal, we have a plan to do what we needed to do going forward. Obviously, there's a sunset period already in some of the regulations there. And we can deal with that.
But we have got to get rid of this onerous burden on businesses and individuals without, you know, the care that people deserve and expect on the other side. It's completely and utterly unaffordable now.
BLITZER: Senator, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck.
FLAKE: All right. Thanks for having me on.
BLITZER: Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona.
We're going to get another view of the Trump victory and his transition to power from the president and CEO of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks.
I want to get your reaction to the Trump victory. Cornell, there's a lot to discuss. We have got to take a quick break. We will start our conversation right after this.
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: OK.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. Take a look at this.
These are live pictures of protesters blocking a bridge near Philadelphia's Amtrak train station, 30th Street Station over there in Philadelphia. This is the second day of protests, by the way, in Philadelphia.
There's a smaller protest under way in Los Angeles right now, other protests in several other cities across the country. We will update you on all of that. We're following the breaking news on president-elect Trump's meeting
with President Obama today over at the White House right behind me.
We're back with the president and the CEO of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks.
Cornell, once again, thanks for joining us.
I'm curious, what was your reaction to Donald Trump's win?
BROOKS: I think, like a great many Americans, given all of the predictions, I was surprised, and concerned, alarmed, the reason being is that the country has endured, survived a presidential campaign in which we have seen literally misogyny mainstreamed, anti-Semitism normalized, racism regularized, if you will, folks in inner cities and rural communities pitted against one another.
So, it was surprising, very surprising. But, that being said, we have to prepare for a peaceful transition. From the days of George Washington to the election and reelection of the nation's first African-American president, we have enjoyed peaceful transitions.
That being said, I would note this: The president-elect was elected without the popular vote, likely with suppressed votes in the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act.
He's in a position now, if he's to be called our president, he has to understand that our president means that "our" implies that he's accountable to the whole of the country, immigrant Americans, Muslim Americans, African-Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and certainly the largest slice of the citizenry, namely women.
And that suggests that he has to speak in ways that bring the country together.
BLITZER: He says he wants to be the president of all Americans. He's been saying all the things he should be saying since he won, since he defeated Hillary Clinton. What was your reaction when you saw -- he met 90 minutes with President Obama in the Oval Office today. And they both were very complimentary. And they emerged, the president saying it was an excellent meeting.
BROOKS: Well, let's put it this way. It's said that you campaign in poetry and govern in prose.
But we have seen a campaign that's represented obscenity, so we can only hope that we're going to turn that into prose. And what that means is specific policies that bring the country together.
Here's what we have seen. In this campaign, it's not been about -- merely about offensive rhetoric, but also offensive policy, so, rhetoric that otherizes and ostracizes and demeans Muslims and an immigration policy that suggests an entire religion being banned from the country. It's not just that he's spoken about the African-American community as
"the African-Americans," but he's also put forward a policy under a philosophy of law and -- I should say, law and order that has been held to be unconstitutional, namely stop and frisk.
And so this represents not just a shift in rhetoric or a shift in the optics, i.e., meeting with the president, but a shift in policy. So, in other words, he has to speak in ways that bring people together, but policy specifics that bring the country together.
BLITZER: It's curious, because we looked at all the exit polling. And a lot of people around the country who voted for President Obama in 2008, who voted for President Obama to be reelected in 2012, they wound up voting for Donald Trump this time.
And I wonder if you have an explanation for that.
BROOKS: Know this. The country wanted change. But change does not -- change generally means change for the better. It does not mean change in terms of dividing, change in terms of pitting us against another.
I don't believe that the majority of Americans want to heed and obey racialized dog whistles that render some of us cowering and in fear, and others literally snarling in anger. And so he has an opportunity to speak to the anxieties of the country.
His notion of a major investment in infrastructure, boosting high- paying jobs, focusing jobs on undercapitalized communities where we see elevated levels of unemployment and underemployment, focusing on that -- those kinds of policies I think can be helpful.
BLITZER: He says he wants to reach out, he wants to help the working class, he wants to help African-Americans.
It's interesting. We also looked at the exit polls. African-American turnout in some key states this time was lower than it was four years ago and eight years ago. And I wonder if you have an explanation for that.
BROOKS: Well, let's know this. Across the board, across demographic slices of the citizenry, we saw lower turnout overall. So, let's be very clear about this.
So, this -- the results of this election can't be attributable to the African-American community. We can't blame African-Americans. I think it's important to note here that, during the course of this campaign, we have seen no less than 10 cases of voter suppression, where courts have attested, held against voter suppression.
And so we have a president-elect who was elected literally with two thumbs and eight fingers on the scale in terms of depressed, suppressed votes in communities all across the country, African- Americans, Latinos, rural voters. Think about it. Within days of this election, we had 4,000 voter
registrations purged in North Carolina, a state held to have engaged in intentional racial discrimination with respect to the vote. So, this is a moment where I believe this president is entering the Oval Office with this election under a cloud. Voter suppression did not begin with him, but it certainly...
BLITZER: But do you think -- he got more Electoral College votes than Hillary Clinton did. Was it a free and fair election?
BROOKS: It's absolutely not a free and fair election, not when you have court after court after court literally catching vote suppressors red-handed.
And so it wasn't a free and fair election. Donald J. Trump is our president. He is the president-elect. The election system that delivered him to the White House, however, is broken and needs to be fixed. And that means fixing the Voting Rights Act.
BLITZER: So, are you suggesting the system was rigged?
BROOKS: Absolutely not. I'm not suggesting that the system was rigged.
What I am suggesting, in fact, is we had those in state legislatures all across the country who have engaged in voter suppression. We had court after court, the Fourth Circuit, the Fifth Circuit that have attested to this.
And so the point being here, it's not so much that the system is rigged. It's that the Voting Rights Act is broken, clearly.
BLITZER: So, you obviously want that to be fixed.
What do you say to those people out there who right now -- you're a civil rights leader -- who feel that they have been betrayed to a certain degree and they're disappointed and they're angry right now in seeing, for example, a picture of the president of the United States welcoming the president-elect of the United States?
There's a lot of anger out there right now. We're looking at some protests in Philadelphia, for example. How worried are you, for example, that their civil rights potentially could be violated?
BROOKS: I'm very concerned.
The NAACP is not in the business of hand-wringing and worry. But we are in the business of focusing our concerns. And so when we see at these demonstrators and protesters across the country, they have a right to be concerned.
But even as we are concerned, even as many of us are angry, we have to be focused, we have to be determined, and we have to put forward a strong civil rights agenda and demand that this administration adhere to it. We have been very clear. We are willing to stand with this
administration, stand at its side, but we are willing to also stand in its face if it violates the civil rights of Americans. And that means, with respect to immigration reform, that means with respect to policing, voting rights, we as a country have to come together.
We are bigger and better than the presidential campaign that we just survived.
BLITZER: One final question, Cornell.
I know you invited Donald Trump as a presidential candidate to come to your convention, the NAACP Convention, this past summer. He declined the invitation.
Is this a moment for you to reach out to him, for him to respond, for the two of you to get together with other civil rights leaders and talk about these issues?
[18:30:11] BROOKS: Absolutely.
BLITZER: You're ready for that moment?
BROOKS: We are ready, certainly, to talk to the president-elect. But the question is, we need a conversation and a dialogue that's robust and honest, and that recognizes how deeply divided the country is; how badly broken the Voting Rights Act is; and how wrong-headed some of his policies that he's called for, in terms of stop and frisk, are. That kind of honest, frank conversation is certainly necessary.
But we ask that the president-elect certainly come to the table really recognizing the state of the country. Look over our shoulder. The folks behind us, those protestors, those demonstrators represent, they the whole of the country, and their part of the country.
BLITZER: So you're going to reach out to the president-elect?
BLITZER: OK, Cornell...
BROOKS: Thank you. Thank you.
BLITZER: ... thanks very much for joining us. Cornell William Brooks, the president and CEO of the NAACP.
Just ahead, after years of antagonizing each other from afar, President Obama and Donald Trump, they go face to face in a remarkable meeting in the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had never met each other. I have great respect. The meeting lasted for almost an hour and a half. And it could have, as far as I'm concerned, it could have gone on for a lot longer. (END VIDEO CLIP)
[18:36:07] BLITZER: The breaking news this hour, almost unthinkable just a few days ago. The president-elect, Donald Trump, together in the Oval Office for a 90-minute meeting with the president of the United States, a meeting that was both cordial and conciliatory. The two men meeting for the first time to discuss Donald Trump's transition to power.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I just had the opportunity to have an excellent conversation with President-elect Trump. It was wide-ranging. We talked about some of the organizational issues in setting up a White House. We talked about foreign policy. We talked about domestic policy.
And as I said last night, my No. 1 priority in the coming two months is to try to facilitate a transition that ensures our president-elect is successful. And I have been very encouraged by the, I think, interest in President-elect Trump's wanting to work with my team around many of the issues that this great country faces. And I believe that it is important for all of us, regardless of party and regardless of political preferences, to now come together, work together, to deal with the many challenges that we face.
And in the meantime, Michelle has had a chance to greet the incoming first lady, and we had an excellent conversation with her, as well. And we want to make sure that they feel welcome as they prepare to make this transition.
And most of all, I want to emphasize to you, Mr. President-elect, that -- that we now are going to want to do everything we can to help you succeed. Because if you succeed, then the country succeeds.
TRUMP: Well, thank you very much, President Obama. This was a meeting that was going to last for maybe 10 or 15 minutes, and we were just going to get to know each other. We had never met each other. I have great respect. The meeting lasted for almost an hour and a half. And it could have, as far as I'm concerned, it could have gone on for a lot longer.
We really -- we discussed a lot of different situations. Some wonderful, and some difficulties. I very much look forward to dealing with the president in the future, including counsel. He's explained some of the difficulties, some of the high-flying assets and some of the -- some of the really great things that have been achieved.
So Mr. President, it was a great honor being with you, and I look forward to being with you many, many more times in the future. Thank you.
OBAMA: Thank you, everybody. We're not -- we are not going to be taking any questions. Thank you, guys. Thank you. Here's a good rule. Don't answer any questions when they just
TRUMP: It's always the last one.
OBAMA: Come on, guys. Yes, come on, guys. Let's go.
TRUMP: Very -- very good man.
OBAMA: Thank you, guys.
BLITZER: "He's a very good man," we heard Donald Trump saying about the president at the very end right there.
Let's get some more with our panel. First to David Axelrod. You're a former senior adviser to President Obama. How do you think he approached this important meeting?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think as we said yesterday, Wolf, he had very much in mind his own meeting with George W. Bush in 2008. Remember, the president was pretty tough on President Bush during his campaign. And yet, President Bush welcomed him to the White House, held a luncheon with all the former presidents at the president-elect Obama's request. All of his aides briefed all of us, and there was an ongoing dialogue throughout the transition months.
[18:40:18] And he was determined, I know, to do the same thing for whomever was elected. And in some ways, he felt that it was even more important when someone of an opposing party was elected, because this is what is the responsibility of a president in our democratic system.
BLITZER: Certainly is.
Gloria, considering their history over these past, not just few months of the campaign, over the past several years, the two of them seem pretty warm, almost cordial. I don't know about friendly, but they seemed very, very polite.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think they were polite to each other, because they're doing that, not because they necessarily love each other, but because they're doing it for the country they love. And this is what an orderly transition of power looks like.
And so they don't have to be best friends. But they are now members of a very elite club, and there are not so many of them around. And so I think that one president, an outgoing president, treats a president-elect with respect, because he has earned the job by getting a majority of the Electoral College, 270 in the Electoral College. And that is something to respect and admire.
And I think that what this president was doing was saying, "Here's what your day is like. Here's what it is." What stunned me by the way, was that Donald Trump said that the
president explained to him some of the really great things that had been achieved. I'm kind of wondering what exactly President Obama was talking about. Was it some of his policies that he had achieved, or was it something about job growth or unemployment going down? I mean, I'm interested in finding out more about that...
BLITZER: What Donald Trump was referring to.
BORGER: Yes, exactly.
BLITZER: David Swerdlick, as a lot of us remember, everybody remembers, Donald Trump was one of the activists in the so-called birther movement. And yet, to see this meeting in the White House, it's pretty incredible when you think about it.
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, in some ways it is incredible. In some ways, though, I feel like this was the only way it could happen.
In 2011 when Trump emerged at the leadership of the birther movement, if he had, as he had sort of flirted at that time, run against President Obama, I actually think he would have been eviscerated. President Obama, at least up to this point, has superior political skills. So this was the moment when they didn't run against each other, that you know, each was able to be magnanimous.
And I think one thing you can say for sure about President Obama is, whatever other criticisms people may have, he's never had trouble sort of brushing off personal insults. And I think that's how you...
BLITZER: Jim Acosta, do you think there are going to be more meetings between these two men?
ACOSTA: You know, I think it's possible. I was talking to a senior White House official today, who -- I asked this person about this notion that Donald Trump would seek President Obama's counsel in the future. This official described it to me as unbelievable, that that would happen.
You know, yes, they were cordial. Yes, they were polite. Yes, they were part of this elite group, but these are two men they don't like each other very much. I mean, let's just be honest about it. And there are people inside this White House right now who are traumatized. They are sickened that Donald Trump is going to be president of the United States. I mean, that is just the reality of it.
But they are very determined to carry out this process of a smooth transition. It was interesting to hear Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, earlier today. You ask him about anything: "What about these insults to the past?" "We're committed to a smooth transition." "Well, what about the birther stuff?" "We're committed to a smooth transition." That is everything at the White House right now. That's all they're talking about. DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They don't like each
other very much, but I was actually surprised to hear Trump say today that they'd never met, actually face to face before this today. For two men who are larger-than-life figures, for two men who have been so in each other's public, in their public lives, that they've actually never met face to face, is kind of stunning.
But I think that Gloria, to your point about them being part of a small club now, you know, this is a very different kind of tension that we -- even as David Axelrod was talking about, the fact that President Obama ran against George W. Bush, even though John McCain was on the ticket. And so it was not -- it was not an easy meeting between the two of them.
But look at in the past -- maybe I'm being really optimistic here -- Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. They're like -- they're really close. You know, again, they're their own -- they have their own issues, and they've had a lot of time for healing. But they genuinely are good friends.
BLITZER: They've become close as ex-presidents, not necessarily while one of them was serving.
BASH: Exactly. Now. Now.
BORGER: But if Donald Trump is successful in undoing everything President Obama spent the last eight years doing...
BASH: I totally agree.
BORGER: ... I think they might communicate a little bit less.
BASH: I totally agree.
BLITZER: But, David, where do you think Donald Trump and Paul Ryan will find some common ground? Because, you know, the speaker and the presidential candidate, they have their differences and they were very public.
AXELROD: The differences I think is mild. Paul Ryan essentially accused him of making racist statements, sexist statements, said he wouldn't campaign for him. But that was then, this is now.
They do have significant policy differences. Paul Ryan is pro-trade, he's been warm to immigration reform, he feels strongly about entitlement reforms that Donald Trump says he won't implement. But there are other issues -- certainly, they agree on Obamacare and on some fiscal issues. Perhaps some tax issues.
There are things on deregulation. So, on the traditional kinds of Republican issues, they can find some common ground, and I suspect that's where they'll begin working together.
BLITZER: You know, Gloria, a couple of names have emerged as a potential White House chief of staff. Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, who worked closely with Donald Trump during the campaign. Also Steve Bannon, the CEO from the campaign, a former chief of Breitbart News.
And there's been a lot of reaction to these names -- White House chief of staff, all of us who covered the White House, that is a critically job.
BORGER: Reince Priebus could be the more establishment choice, the person who could be a go-between between Paul Ryan, for example, and the White House. Steve Bannon would be the ideological choice.
I mean, I remember it wasn't that long ago where Donald Trump was teetering between choosing Newt Gingrich as his vice presidential nominee and Mike Pence. And if you'll recall, his family kind of had to do an intervention at the time and say, no, no, you're not going to pick Newt Gingrich, you're going to pick Mike Pence, and he ended up going with Pence and he did not regret it.
BASH: No, he didn't.
BLITZER: That choice would be significant to see which direction the president-elect wants to go.
BASH: It's funny you said that, Gloria, because somebody said to me today, remember, if Donald Trump's plane didn't break down, Mike Pence might not be the vice president elect. Or whatever it is that hand, meaning there was a little bit of a bait and switch or an intervention or however you put it. Because right now, I'm told that Donald Trump himself really wants Steve Bannon to be his chief of staff. He trusts him. He has a good bond with him.
He also very much likes Reince Priebus, the RNC chair. They have grown to be close. Priebus has traveled with him a lot. I'm told that there are some people in the family and others who are trying to dissuade Donald Trump from picking Bannon because of the Breitbart, because of -- and because of the fact that the chief of staff, the role -- the critical part of the role is to keep the trains running on time and that maybe personality-wise Reince Priebus --
BLITZER: But, Jim Acosta, we did see Denis McDonough, the current White House chief of staff take a walk around the south lawn of the White House with Jared Kushner, who is the son-in-law of Donald Trump.
ACOSTA: That's right.
BLITZER: Ivanka's husband.
ACOSTA: I think that's an indication that Jared Kushner, the son-in- law of Donald Trump, husband of Ivanka, will be a player in this administration. Perhaps not the chief of staff, but play an important role. And we've seen this during the course of the campaign, that family matters to Donald Trump. And he does listen to Ivanka, he listens to Jared Kushner.
I've heard Kellyanne Conway also mentioned in the conversation about White House chief of staff. I think that would be interesting in terms of Donald Trump's problems with women during this election process, having a woman chief of staff might send a powerful message across the country.
BLITZER: We should get word of that fairly soon. That's always one of the early appointments during transition.
Everybody, stand by.
Just ahead, the long history of antagonism between President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump, will today's remarkable White House meeting wash away years of bad blood?
[18:53:44] BLITZER: More now on the breaking news: the extraordinary meeting between President Obama and the President-elect Donald Trump at the White House today -- all the more remarkable given their contentious relationship.
CNN's Brian Todd has more.
Brian, there are some years, years of bad blood between the president and the president-elect.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some very bitter years, Wolf. President-elect Trump said he and President Obama have never met in person before Trump came to the White House today. Extraordinary considering how nasty and intentionally personal the back and forth has been between the two men for at least five years. A contempt that made their public show of warmth today seemed just bizarre.
TODD (voice-over): Civility but barely a smile at the White House.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We now are going to want to do everything we can to help you succeed because if you succeed, then the country succeeds. Please.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: Well, thank you very much, President Obama. This was a meeting that was going last for maybe 10 or 15 minutes and we were just going to get to know each other. We had never met each other. I have great respect and --
TODD: An extraordinary show of cordiality, considering that less than 72 hours earlier, President Obama painted Donald Trump as being unhinged.
OBAMA: Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be commander-in- chief. [18:55:00] If your closest advisors don't trust you to tweet, how can you trust him with the nuclear codes?
TODD: That was the night before the entire political landscape was altered. In the heat of the campaign, Trump has taken his own personal shots.
TRUMP: Barack Obama, number one, is incompetent. He is the founder of ISIS. He's the founder of ISIS.
TODD: The barbs seemingly never let up. Trump tweeting in early August, "President Obama will go down as perhaps the worst president in the history of the United States."
It drew this response from the president on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live".
TRUMP: Well, @RealDonaldTrump, at least I will go down as a president.
TODD: The intensely personal vitriol between Obama and Trump extends back at least five years, when Trump led the charge of the birther movement, questioning whether the president was born in the U.S.
TRUMP: Why doesn't he show his birth certificate?
TODD: After President Obama finally produced a long-form birth certificate, he used it as ammunition for some acid-laced one-liners about Trump at a White House correspondents dinner a few weeks later.
OBAMA: So, you can finally back to focusing on the issues that matter, like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?
TODD: Just a few feet away, Trump simply a stared unsmiling. Some have suggested it was this moment that spurred Donald Trump to run for president.
For his part, observers say President Obama has been more than irritated with that whole experience.
JONATHAN MARTIN, NEW YORK TIMES NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it wounded him. I think it really enraged his wife and she's mentioned that before in public. In fact, she did so in the campaign trail on the final days of this race. You can be sure that was on President Obama's mind and probably on President-elect Trump's mind when they were talking there.
TODD: Now, there's at least one more potentially awkward meeting to come and that's, of course, on Inauguration Day. Political observers say President Obama will likely find it difficult as he stands at that podium with President Trump passing the baton to a man who ran against everything he stood for during a very divisive and often bitter campaign. That is not the kind of experience that analysts say gets erased very quickly -- Wolf. BLITZER: What an extraordinary day, indeed, especially given that
Brian, thank you very much.
I want to go back to our senior political commentator, David Axelrod.
Take us a little bit inside this exchange we saw. Your thoughts, David, because you worked so closely with President Obama during his campaign after he was elected, during the transition. What was your reaction to what we just saw given the history?
AXELROD: Well, look, there is no doubt that they have had very, very sharp differences. The president was irritated by the whole birther movement and Trump's role in it. He thought it was a foolish distraction, finally produced the long-form birth certificate to put the thing to rest. It was actually, I think, the same week as the White House correspondents dinner and had -- and made good sport of Donald Trump at that dinner.
But in this campaign, he's been deeply offended by some of the divisive and -- divisive things that Donald Trump has said. Some of the language that Donald Trump has used and he's been very clear about his feelings.
But, look, this is guy who taught constitutional law. He has a very deep sense of what the exercise of what the vote means, what this whole process means and what his responsibilities are as the president of the United States. And so, he -- I'm sure -- took a deep breath and went out to discharge those responsibilities.
Remember he was -- one of the things he attacked Donald Trump for was suggesting that he wouldn't accept the result of the election. Well, if you believe deeply in the sanctity of the process, then you have to set an example. I think Barack Obama set an example today.
BLITZER: Do you think they are going to meet again after this first additional ninety minute meeting? I know they are going to meet on January 20th of next year, during the inauguration when Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. But will they continue to have a dialogue during the transition process?
AXELROD: I think this is entirely at the discretion of the president- elect. If he wants a meeting, he'll certainly get one. If he wants to talk to the president, he'll certainly -- his calls will certainly be received.
I don't think any president -- President Bush did not force himself on President Obama. But when President Obama requested a meeting, President Bush gave him that meeting.
BLITZER: I think that will be very, very significant. This entire transition process, how it goes could shape this new incoming administration.
Thanks very much, David Axelrod, for that. That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.