Obama holds final press conference as President

Washington, Jan 19 (IANS) Barack Obama held his last press conference as the President of the US to offer an assured outlook for a country governed by Donald Trump who is slated to take charge on Friday, a media report said.

“At my core I think we’re going to be OK,” Obama said on Wednesday during the conference at the White House.

“We just have to fight for it, work for it, and not take it for granted.”

“I know that you will help us do that,” CNN quoted the President as saying.

In his question-and-answer session with reporters, Obama said that after two terms of political warfare with Republicans, he was emerging unbowed in his faith in the US and its citizens. But he continued to express concerns about his successor’s stance on Russia and his readiness for office.

“I believe in this country. I believe in the American people. I believe that people are more good than bad,” Obama said.

“I believe tragic things happen. I think there’s evil in the world, but I think at the end of the day, if we work hard and if we’re true to those things in us that feel true and feel right, that the world gets a little better each time.”

Conceding that Trump may not take his advice on issues, Obama said he would avoid weighing in on specific policy matters during his post-presidency, using his time instead to write and “not hear myself talk so darn much”, CNN reported.

Obama also took advantage of the conference to defend the importance of guaranteeing freedom of the press, given that the president-elect has openly insulted several media outlets that he said are “dishonest”.

He said that a free press is “essential” to US democracy, and he took pains to provide an example to his successor by taking questions during the press conference from a wide variety of journalists: progressive, conservative, Latino, African American, foreign and a one specialising in reporting on LGBT rights issues, Efe news reported.

Obama also defended some of his recent moves as President, including his decision to eliminate the “wet foot, dry foot” policy on Cuban migrants, which he said represented “a carryover of an old way of thinking that didn’t make sense in this day and age” within the context of normalising relations with Cuba.

He also said that it made sense for him to commute the prison sentence of former US soldier Chelsea Manning, who in 2010 leaked numerous secret documents to WikiLeaks and who will be able to leave prison in May.

Despite Republican criticism, Obama said that he felt “very comfortable” with his decision on Manning, who “has served a tough prison sentence” after “due process was carried out,” and he added that he did not agree with the idea that her release sends a message that people who leak classified documents will remain unpunished.

He also defended his decision last December to have the US abstain from voting in the UN Security Council on – and not veto – a resolution condemning Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, saying that he felt it was important to “send a signal, a wakeup call” to Israel that the time for implementing a two-state solution in the region may be ending.

Obama also referred to Trump’s recent remarks on the possibility of ending sanctions against Russia for its interference in Ukraine in exchange for cuts in the US and Russian nuclear arsenals.

“The reason we imposed the sanctions … was not because of nuclear weapons issues, it was because the independence and sovereignty of a country, Ukraine, had been encroached upon by force, by Russia. That wasn’t our judgment, that was the judgment of the entire international community,” he said, going on to advise Trump not to “confuse” the issue of Ukraine with nuclear matters.

The president closed the press conference on an optimistic note despite the fears of many regarding Trump’s election win and what it may portend for US domestic and international policy, Efe news added.

–IANS

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