Note — scroll ahead to 43:32 for start of the press conference
From the White House, January 18, 2017: President Obama held his final press conference, with two days left in his term of office. The president talked to reporters about his thoughts on his administration, recent actions on commutations, and some of the years ahead for himself and the nation.
The President responded to his commuting the sentence of Chelsea Manning, which he claimed was due to her being contrite about leaking national secrets, and due to his view the sentence was too long.
Relative to Russia, the President said it is in America’s interests, to continue to have a constructive relationship with Russia, which he said he sought to have from the beginning. Mr Obama, said when President Putin returned to the presidency of Russia, the relationship became strained due to Mr Putin’s adversarial spirit.
Mr Obama said the reason sanctions were imposed, were due to the invasion of Ukraine, by Russia, which he notes that Russia continues to meddle in Ukrainian affairs. Mr Obama said he told the Russians that sanctions would be removed, when they stopped their interference with Ukraine.
President Obama said his relations with President-elect Trump are cordial. He said he gave Mr Trump some advice on a series of issues, but wouldn’t say specifically what was said on what issues. President Obama said he did not expect Mr Trump’s agenda to reflect his agenda, but says the pressures of the office, can change one’s perspective. President Obama said the totality of the office, means it’s critical to have a great team, for the office is too large to be operated by one individual.
President Obama said he would not judge others who announced they would boycott the inauguration of Mr Trump. “All I know is that I will be there, and I’m encouraged by reports the weather won’t be as cold as my first inaugural.”
Looking forward, the President said he looks forward to doing some writing, and spending more time with his family. He said for those who opposed the election of Mr Trump, it is important for citizens to have a normal debate over issues, yet that there is a new Congress and a new President, and there is a difference between the normal give and take, and those actions which threaten the country’s core values.
President Obama said there should be no efforts to silence or control the press, or to roundup children who grew up in America, but came here as illegal immigrants, brought here by their parents. Mr Obama said, in such circumstances, he would speak out on such issues.
On the Middle-East, the president said he continues to worry about the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Mr Obama said what is always clear, is that peace cannot be imposed on the parties. The president said if you do not create two states, then Palestinians will be forced to live as second-class citizens. He added, his administration did not block a vote at the UN on the expansion of Israeli developments, because he felt the continued expansion of settlements, was a increasing hurdle to the furtherance of a peaceful solution.
When asks about being the first black president, and whether others will follow, Mr Obama said he looks toward people of merit, rising to the top in politics, irrespective of color and class. He noted how America “killed it” in the Olympics, and said that any time you are at the top of your form, you can rise to the top. He noted, that the ability of people of merit to rise to the top is America’s strength.
For the last questions, Mr Obama selected Christi Parsons, who was a member of the Illinois Capitol press corps, when Mr Obama was a state senator. He said, since she listened to me when I was in Springfield, I can at least give her the last question as President.
In response to her question on how his family reacted to the election results, Mr Obama said while his daughters were saddened at the election results, they know to pick yourself up and carry on. He said, his daughters have no intention of following a career in politics, but that the are engaged citizens, and cannot help but be patriotic, giving what they’ve seen. He added, his daughters appreciate that America is a big country, and that if you are engaged and involved, one can tap into the core decency in the nation.
In closing, the President said he is encouraged about the future of America. He said, while he gets frustrated, the future of the nation is strong, “We just have to work at it.”
The President left the podium in the press briefing room, by wishing the press corps “Good luck”