It is a tradition for the outgoing president to write a letter to the incoming one, and Barack Obama continued the practice when he handed Donald Trump a hand written letter during their final meeting in the Oval Office on Inauguration Day. While President Trump has shown the letter to a number of visitors, as well as to an ABC News crew a week after taking office, the contents of the letter had not been revealed until CNN obtained a copy of it this weekend.
On White House stationary, Obama congratulates Trump on "a remarkable run," and reminds the new president that "millions have placed their hopes in you." In the letter, Obama offers President Trump a few pieces of advice as he takes office, including reminding Trump to take time for family and friends, as "they’ll get you through the inevitable rough patches." Obama also offers continued support from him and Michelle, telling Trump that the couple "stand ready to help in any ways which we can" before wishing him "good luck and Godspeed."
Some of Obama's words feel especially significant in light of what has happened during Trump's first eight months in office, writing that presidents are "guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions — like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties — that our forebears fought and bled for." He cautions Trump that "regardless of the push and pull of daily politics, it’s up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them."
Also prescient are Obama's words on the United States' foreign relations: "It’s up to us, through action and example, to sustain the international order that’s expanded steadily since the end of the Cold War, and upon which our own wealth and safety depend." Knowing that Trump would go on to have hostile phone calls with several foreign powers later that week, threaten nuclear war on Twitter, and continue to be embroiled in a scandal with Russia, Obama's letter makes it clear that he likely had an idea what Trump might be like as president.