President Obama gave his final press conference of 2016 today. This might also be his final newser as president.
George Stephanopoulos anchored ABC’s coverage, Lester Holt anchored on NBC, and Scott Pelley is anchoring for CBS.
Brian Williams is anchoring live coverage on MSNBC. Wolf Blitzer is on CNN and Shepard Smith anchored for Fox News.
“By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than when we were when we started,” the president said in his opening remarks. “But we know that there is so much more work to do.”
First question went to Josh Lederman of AP: “There’s a perception that you’re letting President Putin get away with interfering in the U.S. election, and that a response that nobody knows about just won’t cut it. Are you prepared to call out President Putin out by name for ordering the attack. And do you agree with what Hillary Clinton says, that the hacking was partially responsible for her loss? and is your administration’s open quarreling with Trump and his team on this issue tarnishing the smooth transition of power that you have promised?”
“There hasn’t been a lot of squabbling with the transition team,” Obama began. “What we’ve simply said is the facts which are that based on uniform intelligence assessments, the Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC, and as a consequence it’s important for us to review all elements of that and make sure we are preventing that kind of interference through cyber attacks in the future. That should be a bipartisan issue, that shouldn’t be a partisan issue and my hope is that the president-elect is going to similarly be concerned with making sure that we don’t have potential foreign influence in our election process.”
“I’m going to let all the political pundits in this town have a long discussion about what happened in the election,” said Obama. “It was a fascinating election so I’m sure there will be a lot of books written about it. I’ve said what I think is important for the Democratic party going forward rather than try to parse every aspect of the election. I’ve said before I couldn’t be prouder of Secretary Clinton, her outstanding service, I think she’s worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and I don’t think she was treated fairly during the election. I think the coverage of her and the issues was troubling.”
The second question went to Michelle Kosinski of CNN, who brought up the fact that Hillary Clinton believes that the FBI Director made a difference in the outcome of the election, and that he campaign chairman talked about something being “deeply broken” within the FBI.
At 3:21 p.m., someone fainted in the briefing room. The press conference was briefly halted, as the president called for Dr. Ronny Jackson to come lead the person out of the room. He came in seconds later.
The next question came from a reporter from Bloomberg and it was about the situation in Aleppo. “Syrians’ blood is on the hands of Russia and Assad,” said President Obama.
The next question went to NBC News’ Peter Alexander who asked about Donald Trump’s Secretary of State pick Rex Tillerson and his relationship with Putin.
Next up, came a question came from ABC News’ Martha Raddatz who also asked a question about Aleppo. She followed up by asking the president if he believes Putin himself authorized the hack to help Trump win, and if he could unequivocally state that it Russia, and not China, that perpetrated the act. She also asked about Trump’s tweeting and if that has inspired Russia to act with hostility. The president was diplomatic in his response to the latter, saying: “Look, I think the president-elect is still trying to move from campaign mode to governance…there’s a whole different attitude and vibe from when you’re not in power than when you’re in power.”
New York Times’ White House correspondent Mark Landler brought up Trump’s conversation with Taiwan and his skepticism when it comes to the longtime “One China” policy. “Do you agree as some do that the policy could use a fresh set of eyes and ‘what’s the big deal about having a short phone call with the president of Taiwan?’ Or do you worry that these types of unorthodox approaches are setting us on a collision course with perhaps our biggest geopolitical adversaries?”
The president responded by saying “I’m somewhere in between. All of our foreign policy should be subject to fresh eyes, but I am very proud of the work I have done. I think I’m better president now than when I started.” He continued by saying that the new president should be look at what has been done and figure out what makes sense, and what doesn’t, something that he himself did. And in terms of One-China itself: “Given the importance of the relationship between the united states and china, given how much is at stake in terms of the world economy, national security, our presence in the Asia-Pacific, China’s increasing role in international affairs, there’s probably no bilateral relationship that carries more significance.”
Isaac Dovere from POLITICO asked what the president would say to electors who might be considering changing their votes come Monday, and also if he thinks electoral college reform is necessary going forward.
Later in the presser, Obama asked a series of rhetorical questions: “How can we get to a place where people are focused on working together based on at least on some common set of facts? How can we have a conversation about policy that doesn’t demonize each other? How can we channel basic goodness and decency of American people? It is so polarized right now. In some cases, you have voters and elected officials who have more confidence in a foreign adversary than they have in their neighbors.”
The president talked about how he got choked up when taking his last photo with his Marine Corps band at the Christmas party. He came across as a bit exhausted throughout, but wa also more open, honest and more reflective than we have seen from him in previous newsers.
A native Hawaiian, the president ended the conference with one final message: “Mele kalikimaka!” which is Hawaiian for “Merry Christmas!”