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PRESIDENT OBAMA HOLDS FINAL NEWS CONFERENCE OF 2016


President Barack Obama pictured at his final News Conference 2016

Next question is about Trump’s conversation with the Taiwanese president and challenge to the One China policy.

What’s Obama think of a “fresh” China policy?

Great question, he says. “I’m somewhere in between. I think all of our foreign policy should be subject to fresh eyes. I am very proud of the work I’ve done. I think I’m a better president than when I started [but] democracy benefits from some new perspectives.

“Given the importance of the relationship between the United States and China, given how much is at stake... there’s probably no bilateral relationship that carries more significance, and where there’s also the potential if that relationship breaks down... that everybody is worse off. I think it’s fine for him to take a look at it.

“What I’ve advised is across the board on foreign policy, you want to make sure that you’re doing at in a systematic intentional way... before he starts to have a lot of interaction with foreign governments...that he should want to have his full team in place... so that as he’s then maybe taking foreign policy in a new direction, he’s got all the information to make good decisions.

“With respect to China, and let’s just take the example of Taiwan, there has been a longstanding agreement between China, the US and to some degree the Taiwanese, which is not to change the status quo.”

Obama says Trump 'is still in transition mode'

Obama is asked whether Putin personally directed the hacking.

He says wait for the intelligence report. But he has “great confidence in their assessment that the Russians carried out this hack. The hack of the DNC and the hack of John Podesta. But again, this is why I want the report out, so that everybody can review it.”

Obama says Congress has seen the reports “and I think that what you’ve already seen is the folks that have seen the evidence don’t dispute that it was the Russians who have carried it out.”

Obama says the larger point is, “not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin. This is pretty hierarchical operation. Last I checked, there’s not a lot of debate and democratic deliberation.. this happened at the highest levels of the Russian government and I will let you ... whether there are high-level Russian officials going rogue.”

“Martha I’ve given you what I’m going to give you.

“As I’ve said before, I think that the president elect is still in transition mode, from campaign to governance... he still has campaign spokesman sort of filling in and appearing on cable shows. There’s just a whole different attitude and vibe when you’re not in power as when you’re in power. How will the president-elect operate and how will his team operate when they’ve been fully briefed?”

“The more this [hacking story] can be nonpartisan, the better-served the American people are going to be. I’m going to keep on repeating this point. Our vulnerability... is directly related to how divided, partisan, dysfunctional our political process is. That’s the thing that makes us vulnerable. If fake news is being released by some foreign government is almost identical to reports that are being issued through partisan news venues, then it’s not surprising that that foreign propaganda will have a greater effect, because it doesn’t seem so far-fetched.”

Obama warns about “domestic propagandists.”

Obama: 'Reagan would roll over in his grave' on GOP support for Putin

Question for Obama: Can you assure the public this was a free and fair election? Will you declassify some of the evidence on Russian hacking? Are you concerned about the Tillerson pick and some of Trump’s closeness to Putin?

Obama: I’m getting older. These multi-part questions...

“I can assure the public that there was not the kind of tampering with the voting process that was a concern and will continue to be a concern. That the votes that were cast were counted, they were counted appropriately. We have not seen evidence of machines being tampered with. That assurance I can provide.

We paid a lot of attention to it, we worked with state officials, etc, but we feel confident that that didn’t occur and that the votes were cast and they were counted.

ON declassification: “We will provide evidence that we can safely provide, that does not compromise sources and methods, but... when you’re talking about cybersecurity, a lot is classified... if we’re going to monitor this stuff effectively going forward, we don’t want them to know that we know.

“Unless the American people genuinely think that the professionals in [the intelligence community including Republicans] are less trustworthy than the Russians, then people should pay attention to what our intelligence agencies say. We’ve got to pay attention to what’s happening to our political culture here.”

Obama says that Russia is smaller and weaker and can’t hurt America... except:

Their economy doesn’t produce anything that anybody wants to buy except oil and gas and arms. They don’t innovate. But they can impact if we lose track of who we are... if we start buying into notions that it’s OK to intimidate the press, or lock up dissidents, or discriminate against people because of their faith, or what they look like... you’re starting to see certain Republican party and voters... starting to see a government contrary to everything we stand for as being OK because that’s how much we dislike Democrats.

Some folks who had made a career about being anti-Russian didn’t say anything about it. Then after the election they say, well why didn’t you tell us that the Russians were trying to elect our candidate. Now come on....

Over a third of Republican voters approve of Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB. Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave. And how did that happen?... Because for too long, everything that happens in this town, everything that’s said, is through the prism of, does this help or hurt us relative to Democrats? Relative to president Obama?

“We’ve lost track of what we’re about and what we stand for.”

As for appointments, those are up to Trump, Obama says, and to the senate to advise and consent.

On safe zones, Obama says, “if you set those zones up on Syrian territory, then that requires some force that is willing to maintain that territory in the absence of consent from the Syrian government and now the Russians and the Iranians.

It may be that with Aleppo’s tragic situation unfolding, if we can get some of the tens of thousands that are trapped there out... find some arrangement perhaps in coordination with Turkey whereby those people will be safe... unfortunately we’re not even there yet, because right now we have Russians and Assad claiming that all the innocent civilians that were trapped in Aleppo are out... try to put pressure wherever we can to try to get them out.

I will help president-elect Trump with any advice counsel information that we can provide.

Obama on Syria: 'I cannot claim that we’ve been successful'

Obama continues. “I mean that with all sincerity. I understand the impulse to want to do something, but ultimately I’ve had to think about what can we sustain, what is realistic and what’s the right thing to do for America?”

President Obama says he provided moderate support to the opposition, tried to minimize the extremist jihadi presence and tried to pressure international partners.

“I cannot claim that we’ve been successful,” he says, “but I continue to believe it was the right approach, given what realistically we could get done.”

Obama defends Syria policy: 'unless we were all in... we were going to have problems'

Question: on Aleppo, do you feel any personal moral responsibility for the carnage? And Trump wants safe zones, which you’ve opposed. Will you support him?

Obama: “Mike I always feel responsible. I felt responsible when kids were being shot by snipers. I felt responsible when millions of people were being displaced... for murder and slaughter that’s taking place in South Sudan that’s not being reported...

There’s places around the world where horrible things are happening, and because of my office I feel responsible... there’s not a moment during the course of this presidency where I haven’t felt some responsibility. That’s true by the way for our own country...

With respect to Syria, what I have consistently done is taken the best course I can to try to end the civil war while taking into account the long term national interest of the United States...

Obama says he went through every option in Syria in painful detail with maps, humanitarian agencies, the military... but “short of putting large numbers of US troops on the ground, uninvited, without any international law mandate, without sufficient support from Congress... just gone through a decade of war and spent trillions of dollars, when the opposition on the ground was not cohesive enough...and you had a military superpower in Russia...and a regional power in Iran... that in that circumstance, unless we were all in and we were willing to take over Syria, then we were going to have problems. And everything else sounded tempting... but it was impossible to do this on the cheap.

Questions for Obama: what about Clinton’s contention that Comey’s letter about emails on Abedin/Weiner’s computer affected the outcome of the election?

Also, what’s risk of Trump ignoring Russian hack?

Obama: Transition from election season to governance season is not always smooth. You know it’s bumpy.”

“When Donald Trump takes the oath of office and is sworn in, he’s got a different set of responsibilities and considerations.”

On his conversations with Trump:

“They have been cordial, and in some cases have involved me making some pretty specific suggestions about how to be sure...about maintaining the effectiveness, integrity, cohesion of the office, our various democratic institutions. And he has listened. I can’t say that he will end up implementing...and I will always make myself available to him.”

On the FBI:

“I’ve had a chance to know a lot of FBI agents... they take their job seriously. They work really hard. They help keep us safe and save a lot of lives...

“Sometimes that involves investigations that touch on politics. In this hyperpartisan environment everything is suspect... one thing I have done...is not wading into investigation decisions... to be strict in my own behaviour about preserving the independence of law enforcement.... I don’t know why it would stop now.