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Obama hosting Trump at White House for first meeting following election

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(NBC) — President-elect Donald Trump arrived at the White House on Thursday morning for his first one-on-one meeting with President Barack Obama — a symbolic gesture that begins the peaceful transition of power in the nation's highest elected office.

The private Oval Office meeting comes after a contentious election that pitted the Republican business tycoon against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state for whom Obama vigorously campaigned.

Trump's visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue could be awkward given that the president-elect spent years railing against Obama. Trump fronted the so-called "birther" movement, leading the effort demanding that the president produce his birth certificate and prove he was an American citizen.

The men have had virtually no personal contact. They were last in the same room at the 2011 White House Correspondents' Association dinner — the night Obama pilloried Trump in a scathing comedy routine.

Obama congratulated the president-elect in a statement in the Rose Garden on Wednesday, pledging to do his part in a cordial handover — just as President George W. Bush did for him eight years ago.

"It is not secret that the president-elect and I have some pretty significant differences," Obama said. "The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy."

Trump has threatened to undo much of Obama's policies and programs. At stake is the president's legacy on health care initiatives, immigration, a global climate change pact and a nuclear deal with Iran.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday that Obama is hoping to impart to Trump the benefits of his policies.

"There is a tradition, particularly with regard to executive agreements, of successive presidents preserving some element of continuity," Earnest said. "I don't know whether or not that will fly in this case."

A White House official told NBC News that the president wants to ensure a "seamless transition" and let Trump know that White House staff remains committed to a new administration.

Obama will touch on the responsibilities of the office and how they differ from what happens in a campaign, the official added.

Trump on Thursday will be joined at the White House by wife, Melania, who is set to meet in the residence with first lady Michelle Obama.

Vice President Joe Biden will meet with Vice President-elect Mike Pence later Thursday afternoon.

Trump departed for Washington in his Trump-branded airliner out of New York's LaGuardia Airport, where water cannons sprayed the jet in a ceremonial sendoff.

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