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President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Obama warns Russia on election hacks, says he feels 'responsible' for crisis in Syria


In his final press conference of the year, President Barack Obama touted the success he has had over the past eight years. He championed an unemployment rate that is drastically lower than when he took office, a decrease in the number of Americans who are uninsured, as well as America's reduction of our dependence on foreign oil. 

"By so many measures, the country is stronger and more prosperous. It is a situation that I am proud to leave for my successor and the American people," Obama said. 

Feels 'responsible' for Syria

Obama said that in many ways he felt "responsible" for the humanitarian crisis in Syria. "I ask myself every single day: Is there something I could do every day to save lives?"

But maintained that his options in the battle between Syrian government forces and rebels were limited, because he had to consider "what can we sustain, what is realistic." 

He eventually decided to send "some support to the moderate opposition" -- a strategy he conceded did not work.

The Assad regime cannot slaughter its way to legitimacy.
President Obama

Obama also expressed disappointment about the situation in Aleppo, Syria. "The world is united in horror at the savage assault by the Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies in Aleppo," Obama said.

He called for a neutral international observation team to ensure humanitarian aid can get into the besieged city.

Blames Russia for election hack

Obama blamed Russia for interfering in the recent election and called for a review of how the attacks were carried out and how to stop them in the future. 

"The Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC.  As a consequence, it is important for us to review all elements of that," Obama said. He expressed hope that President-elect Trump would be interested in taking a bipartisan approach to ensuring the security of elections. 

Obama would not say that Putin directed the hacks -- but he did say that "not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin." 

He also took a shot at Russia, calling them a "smaller country, a weaker country" that didn’t innovate or produce goods people want to buy outside of petroleum and weapons.

Russia won't be able to weaken us, Obama said, unless "we start buying into notions that it's okay to intimidate the press or lock up dissidents or discriminate against people because of their faith or what they look like."

We feel confident that didn't occur, and that the votes were cast and that they were counted.
President Obama

Obama defended the integrity of the recent election, saying there is no evidence Russia or another foreign entity attempted to gain access to voting mechanisms or meddle with vote counts.

'We can do stuff to you'

He defended his handling of the hacking incident, saying he "handled it the way we should have" -- by briefing all relevant parties involved. 

Obama said he didn’t want to appear to be playing politics with the sensitive topic ahead of the November election. But he did say that he told Putin to "cut it out" at the G20 summit in China in September.

"Our goal continues to be to send a clear message to Russia and others not to do this to us, because we can do stuff to you."

Chides 'latte sippin' Democrats

Obama chided the media for their coverage of the election and Hillary Clinton in particular: "Coverage of her and the issues was troubling." But he did not directly blame her loss on the Russian hacks, or the media’s coverage. 

The president also said he believes the Democratic Party has to campaign in more rural areas -- Democrats must fight to not be seen as the party of "coastal, liberal, latte-sippin', politically correct out-of-touch folks."

One-China policy

Obama was asked to weigh in on Trump’s decision to break the longstanding U.S. policy of treating Taiwan as a part of China. "Foreign policy should be subject to fresh eyes," he said, but explained that the status quo works for all parties. 

He cautioned Trump that China considers their one-China policy as core to their national identity and could react in a significant way.  "The Chinese won't treat that the same way they treat other issues," Obama said. 

It's the American people's job to decide my successor -- not my job to decide my successor.
President Obama

Refuses to weigh in on electors

Obama refused to tell electors in the Electoral College how they should vote on Monday. He also refused to endorse a candidate in the upcoming DNC chair election, though he did praise Labor Secretary Tom Perez's work, calling him one of the greatest.

As for the Electoral College Obama called it a "vestige, a carryover from an earlier vision of how our federal government was going to work."

He maintained, however, that if Democrats "have a strong message," then the popular vote and electoral college vote would align.

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