04:41 GMT +315 December 2019
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    US President Barack Obama

    President Obama’s End of the Year News Conference

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    US President Barack Obama held his final news conference of 2016 on Friday, before departing for an annual family vacation in Hawaii.

    The US President was expected to field questions regarding Russia, and his promise to retaliate against alleged hacking by Moscow, which he did. Obama took the stage approximately 25 minutes after the conference was scheduled to begin.

    As the conference began, the president joked that he had a list of those in the press who have been "naughty or nice" to call on for questions.

    The president spoke on the economy, foreign policy, gun violence, and several other issues.

    "In foreign policy, when I came into office, we were in the midst of two wars. Now, nearly 180,000 troops are down to 15,000. Bin Laden, rather than being at large, has been taken off the battleground," the president stated.

    The US president then spoke on Syria, and asserted that "the Syrian regime and their Russian allies" are trying to "obfuscate the truth," after stating that he will continue to push for a "more representative government" in the nation.

    Immediately when he began fielding questions, the president was asked by a reporter from the Associated Press about Russia. He was asked specifically, if he agreed with Hillary Clinton that the hacking was responsible for her election loss.

    "Based on uniform intelligence assessments, the Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC and that as a consequence, it is 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," Obama responded. "My hope is that the president-elect is going to be similarly concerned with making sure that we don't have foreign influence in our election process."

    Obama continued on to claim that at the beginning of the summer he was alerted to the fact that the DNC had been hacked. He claimed that he immediately deployed law enforcement to investigate and brief the victims of the hack and lawmakers.

    "At that time, we did not attribute motives or any interpretations of why they had done so, we didn't discuss what the efects of it might be. We simply let people know, let the public know, just as we had let members of Congress know, this had happened," Obama said of their next step.

    He explained that while the press reported their beliefs about why the Democratic Party was hacked, the White House did not publicly speculate on the motive at the time because they did not want to appear biased.

    "We did not, and the reason we did not was because in this hyper partisan atmosphere, at a time when my primary concern was making sure that the integrity of the election was not in any way damaged, at a time when anything that was said by me or anybody in the White House would immediately be seen through a partisan lens, I wanted to make sure that everybody understoof we were playing this thing straight. We weren't trying to advantage one side or the other. What we were trying to do is let people know that this had taken place."

    Obama explained that he saw Russian President Vladimir Putin in September, and told him to "cut it out." He said that after that encounter, there was no further "tampering" of the election process — but that the hacked materials were already in the hands of Wikileaks.

    The president scolded the press in the room, saying that they had an "obsession" with the leaks, and that they reported on "every little thing" including Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta's "risotto recipe."

    "Our goal continues to be, to send a clear message to Russia, or others, not to do this to us — because we can do stuff to you," Obama said. "But it is also important for us to do that in a thoughtful and methodical way. Some of it we do publicly, some of it we will do in a way that they know, but not everybody will."

    When asked again if Clinton lost because of the hacking, Obama stated that he is going to leave that up to the pundits to decide. He did state that he did not believe that Clinton was covered fairly during the election season, however, seemingly blaming the press for her loss.

    "I don’t think she was treated fairly during the election. I think the coverage of her and the issues was troubling," he said.

    When asked if he could confirm that it was a free and fair election, Obama stated that it was.

    "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 going forward," Obama stated. "The votes that were cast were counted, they were counted appropriately."

    Obama was also asked to comment about Russia asking him to put his money where his mouth is — and declassify some of their intelligence findings showing that the Kremlin was behind the hacks. His response seemed to indicate that he will not be releasing very much.

    "Look, we will provide evidence that we can safely provide that does not compromise sources and methods," he said. "A lot of it is classified and we are not going to provide it."

    The president went on to say that the public should essentially just trust what intelligence agencies feed them.

    In a moment of supreme irony, Obama critized Russia for "locking up dissidents," as Chelsea Manning remains imprisoned — and over 100,000 of her supporters petition the US president for a pardon.

    Obama then began to criticize the Republican Party, citing a survey that showed 37% of Republican voters approve of Putin.

    "Over a third of Republican voters, approve of Vladimir Putin — the former head of the KGB," Obama said. "Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave."

    The president then blamed partisan US websites of creating "fake news" that closesly resembles "Russian propaganda."

    Asked by a Politico reporter if electors who are considering voting against the will of their states should be given an intelligence briefing on the alleged Russian hacking, Obama said that he will not wade into that issue.

    "It's the American people's job, and now the electors job, to decide my successor," he said. "It is not my job to decide my successor. I've provided people with a lot of information about what happened during the course of the election — but more importantly, the candidates themselves talked about their beliefs and their vision for America."

    In an interview with National Public Radio on Friday morning, Obama stated that any retaliation against Russia will occur "at a time and place of our own choosing." He also stated that the actions may not be obvious.

    "Some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be," he said.

    His remarks on NPR come a day after White House press secretary Josh Earnest stated that the nation has a range of appropriate “proportional responses.” 

    "The United States retains significant, extensive cyber capabilities that exceed the capabilities that are wielded by any other country in the world.  And to detail those cyber capabilities would be to potentially undermine our ability to use them," Earnest said on Thursday. "But there are a range of proportional responses that the President and his team believe would be an appropriate response."

    The issue about whether or not Russia, and even Russian President Vladimir Putin himself, was involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign officials has been hotly contested.

    The Kremlin has officially denied any involvement, and the notion that Russia was attempting to help the Donald Trump campaign has been mocked and branded as a conspiracy theory by the President-elect and those closest to him.


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    Hacking, Democratic National Committee, Kremlin, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Josh Earnest, Barack Obama, United States, Russia
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