WHITE HOUSE - On the day after one of the most stunning election upsets in U.S. history, President Barack Obama appeared Wednesday alongside Vice President Joe Biden in the White House Rose Garden to reassure Americans he was committed to a smooth transition for President-elect Donald Trump.
Emerging from the Oval Office as looming dark clouds receded, Obama acknowledged that Hillary Clinton's defeat was hard for Democrats, but said he was "rooting" for Republican Trump's success.
"Now, everybody is sad when their side loses an election. But the day after we have to remember we're actually all on one team. ... We're not Democrats first, we're not Republicans first, we are Americans first, we're patriots first. We all want what is best for this country."
Obama said he found Trump's victory speech encouraging.
"That's what I heard from Donald Trump's remarks last night. That's what I heard when I spoke to him, directly, and I was heartened by that," the president said. "That's what the country needs: a sense of unity, a sense of inclusion, a respect for our institutions, our way of life, rule of law, and respect for each other."
At the daily White House briefing Wednesday, reporters pointed out that during the long and heated campaign, Obama had repeatedly called Trump "unfit" to be commander in chief, and asked whether the president was worried that Trump would be getting the codes to deploy nuclear weapons when he takes office in January.
Press secretary Josh Earnest said the election was over, and in a democracy, the president does not choose his successor, the voters do. Earnest said there still would continue to be debates about the future of the country, but that the voters had chosen their next president.
The press secretary said it was too early, just hours after the results were announced, to discern what message the voters wanted to send. But he said the president had asked all members of the White House staff to do do their best to encourage a smooth transition for the president-elect's team. He said White House transition efforts already have been under way for a year.
Obama praised the transition process that former President George W. Bush carried out for him when he was elected eight years ago. Earnest said Obama also appreciated how, particularly early in his presidency, Bush did not make public statements about Obama's policies.
Earnest said the Obama administration already was offering a daily intelligence briefing to Trump, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and a couple of their closest national security advisers.
During the caustic campaign, Trump repeatedly told his supporters at rallies that Clinton belonged in jail. But during his victory speech, Trump said: "Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country."
Some analysts were calling on Trump to tell his supporters Clinton would not be prosecuted for using a private email server while she was U.S. secretary of state. Norman Eisen of the Brookings Institution, a former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, told VOA: "I think he [Trump] could repudiate some of the worst chants that we heard — muted last night, but we still heard. I think it would be a good thing to say, 'Let's look forward and not back, I'm accepting the FBI director's recommendation, I'm closing the door on the investigation of Secretary Clinton and her emails.' "
Obama called Trump early Wednesday morning to congratulate him on his election victory and invite him to the White House Thursday morning for a meeting to discuss the transition and how to bring the country closer together after a bitter campaign.
Earnest acknowledged that, given the antagonistic history between Obama and Trump, this should be a "rather interesting" meeting.