President Obama’s nightmare scenario came true early Wednesday as Republican Donald Trump, the man whom Mr. Obama said couldn’t win and wouldn’t win, indeed won the election to succeed him.
The White House didn’t react to Mr. Trump’s election until after dawn broke in Washington, with press secretary Josh Earnest saying Mr. Obama had called Mr. Trump to congratulate him and invite him to the White House.
Anti-Trump protesters gathered outside the gates of the White House around 3:30 a.m., shortly after Mr. Trump gave his victory speech.
British Prime Minister Theresa May congratulated Mr. Trump publicly before Mr. Obama did, saying she will “look forward to working with President-elect Donald Trump.”
“We are, and will remain, strong and close partners on trade, security and defense,” Ms. May said. “Britain and the United States have an enduring and special relationship based on the values of freedom, democracy and enterprise.”
Mr. Trump’s election drew parallels to the British prime minister’s rise to power following the decision by British voters earlier this year to leave the European Union, a move opposed by Mr. Obama.
Mr. Obama has been warning U.S. voters that Mr. Trump would undo everything that he has achieved over the past eight years, from Obamacare to international agreements on climate change and trade, to the Iranian nuclear deal.
“Everything we’ve worked for is on the ballot,” the president said at a rally for Hillary Clinton Monday in North Carolina.
Mr. Obama said Mr. Trump’s victory would never happen. But he may have helped to provoke Mr. Trump’s candidacy in 2011 when he mocked the Republican to his face in front of thousands of Washington’s media and elected officials at the annual White House correspondent’s dinner.
Mr. Obama was taking a measure of public revenge on Mr. Trump at the time for promoting the “birther” movement that claimed Mr. Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.
Just days before the event, at the president’s request, the state of Hawaii had released Mr. Obama’s long-form birth certificate to show he was a U.S. citizen.
“No one is prouder to put this birth-certificate matter to rest than the Donald,” Mr. Obama said that night. “And that’s because he can finally get back to the issues that matter, like: did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And — where are Biggie and Tupac?”
The president went on mocking Mr. Trump for his “credentials and breadth of experience” as the host of the reality show “Celebrity Apprentice,” and the tough decisions he faced of whether to fire actor Gary Busey or singer Meatloaf.
“These are the kinds of decisions that would keep me up at night,” said Mr. Obama, on the same night that U.S. special forces were conducting a raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
Mr. Obama told the audience that night, “Say what you will about Mr. Trump, he certainly would bring some change to the White House.” Behind the president on a large screen was displayed an image of the “Trump White House Resort and Casino.”
When Mr. Trump indeed announced his bid for the Republican nomination in the summer of 2015, Mr. Obama said he would never win. As Mr. Trump’s candidacy picked up steam, Mr. Obama predicted he would never win the White House.
“I don’t think he’ll end up being president of the United States,” Mr. Obama said in October 2015.
But by last June, after Mr. Trump became the Republican nominee, the president conceded that it was “possible” for Mr. Trump to win. He then set out to campaign hard for Democrat Hillary Clinton, saying Mr. Trump was “temperamentally unfit” for the presidency.
“Donald Trump is uniquely unqualified to be president,” Mr. Obama told a crowd in North Carolina on Monday, the day before the election.
Now, the president will have a little more than two months to prepare for the day in January when he and first lady Michelle Obama welcome Mr. Trump and wife Melania to the White House on Inauguration Day.