WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama conceded Wednesday that President-elect Donald Trump may not take his advice on issues as he “won an election opposed to a number of my initiatives”.
Obama added that once Trump gets into office and is hit with the “complexities” of issues, his thinking might shift on issues such as Obamacare and jobs.
In a news conference that will likely mark the final time Obama speaks in public before he departs the US Capitol on Friday as an ex-president, Obama described the phone calls between him and Trump as “constructive” and at times “lengthy”.
Obama said the greatest advice he could give — and has given — to Trump, is to rely on others around him.
“This is a job of such magnitude that you can’t do it by yourself,” Obama said.
Obama opened the news conference rebuffing Trump by issuing a vocal defense of the White House press corps, insisting the reporters who covered his administration were an essential facet of a functioning democracy.
“We are accountable to the people who send us here. And you have done it,” Obama said. “You’re not supposed to be sycophants. You’re supposed to be skeptics.”
His remarks stood in direct contrast to the incoming president, who has lambasted news organizations reporting on his transition as reporting “fake news”. His choice to appear in the White House briefing room was also telling since Trump’s team has floated the possibility of scrapping that venue for larger space.
Obama was continuing a tradition of taking reporters’ questions for a final time before departing office. George W. Bush held his final news conference a week before leaving office, reflecting on some of the disappointments of his administration but also defending the controversial decisions he made over two terms in the White House.
This news conference comes amid a flurry of last-minute activity, including handing down a commutation for national security leaker Chelsea Manning and a pardon for Gen. James Cartwright, convicted of lying to investigators in a leak probe. Questions could also arise about the continued skirmish between Trump and US intelligence officials.
These were among 209 commutations and 64 pardons also handed out by Obama. The final actions bring his total to 212 pardons and 1,385 commutations, more than any president in history.
But like past presidents during their final sessions with reporters, Obama is also expected to face questions about his legacy and the prospect of change under a new administration.
George W Bush held his final news conference a week before leaving office, reflecting on some of the disappointments of his administration but also defending the controversial decisions he made over two terms in the White House.
Unlike Bush, Obama is leaving office with near-record approval ratings. A CNN/ORC poll released Wednesday showed 60 per cent of Americans approve of the job he’s doing as president.
Wednesday’s news conference is the final time Obama is expected to speak in public before he departs the US Capitol on Friday as an ex-president. His choice of venue for his departing words is telling; Trump’s team has floated the possibility of scrapping the White House briefing room for a larger venue.
Obama and his aides have mounted a defence of the press as they prepare to depart office, insisting that regular interactions between administration officials and reporters posted at the White House forms are essential to a transparent government.