President Barack Obama delivers parting threat at final press conference

President Barack Obama has fronted the media for his final press conference in the role, hinting he doesn't intend to leave office quietly.

The US President is less than two days from ending his eight-year reign to make way for President-elect Donald Trump, who is due take office on Saturday morning, but said he would still be prepared to "speak out" on one key issue once he left the role.

Obama would not "be running for anything any time soon", but said he intended to "fight for the dreamers".

"I'm still a citizen and I think it is important for Democrats or progressives who feel that they came out on the wrong side of this election to be able to distinguish between the normal back-and-forth, ebb and flow of policy," he said.

The outgoing leader said he anticipated he would be compelled to speak out if he saw the nation's "core values may be at stake", and said discrimination was the one thing he would not tolerate.

"I put in that category if I saw systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion. I put in that category explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote, to exercise their franchise. I'd put in that category, institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press," he said.

"And for me at least, I would put in that category efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and, for all practical purposes, are American kids, and send them some place else."

Obama said he was believed he was leaving behind a more tolerant America, but admitted he was worried about inequality and disenfranchisement.

"We've got more to do on race," he said, adding he hoped his presidency had helped the US progress on race issues.

"This is not just the same old battles, we got this stew that' bubbling up of people from everywhere, we're going to have to make sure that in our own lives, in our own families and workplaces and do a better job of treating everybody with basic respect ... There's work to do."

President Barack Obama waves at the conclusion of his final presidential news conference. Photo / AP
President Barack Obama waves at the conclusion of his final presidential news conference. Photo / AP

In his final meeting with the White House media, Obama said he had offered his "best advice and counsel" about foreign and domestic issues to the incoming leader, but didn't expect Trump to take on all of his advice.

"My working assumption is that having a won an election opposed to a number of my initiatives, and certain aspects of my vision for where the country needs to go, it is appropriate for him to go forward with his vision and his values," he said.
"I don't expect there's going to be enormous overlap."

Mr Obama said he had warned his successor that "this is a job of such magnitude", and the most constructive advice he had been able to give him was to seek support from those around him.

"If you find yourself isolated because the process breaks down, or if you're only hearing from people who agree with you on everything, or if you haven't crafted a procession that is fact-checking and probing and asking hard questions about policies that you've made, that's when you start making mistakes," Obama said.

He declined to comment on Democrats boycotting Trump's inauguration.

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Despite the pair's differences on Russia, Mr Obama said he hoped Mr Trump would be able to restart talks he began with Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding nuclear stockpiles "in a serious way", and continue the "vital role" that America plays "in preserving basic values" around the world.

"If we - the largest, strongest country and democracy in the world - are not willing to stand up on behalf of these values, then certainly China, Russia and others will not," he said.

Obama used his time on the podium to defend his decision to shorten the sentence of convicted leaker Chelsea Manning.

Manning was the most high profile of 273 people granted clemency yesterday. The former army intelligence analyst had her 35-year sentence for giving classified government and military documents to the Wikileaks website last November. She is now set to be released from prison in May.

Obama said it "made sense" to commute and to pardon Manning's sentence, and said he felt confidence justice had been served.

"It has been my view that, given she went to trial, that due process was carried out, that she took responsibility for her crime, that the sentence that she received was very disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received," he said.

"When it comes to national security, we're often dealing with people in the field whose lives may be put at risk or, you know, the safety and security and the ability of our military or our intelligence teams or our embassies to function effectively."

He said he had "looked at the particulars" of Manning's case, and felt commuting her sentence was "entirely appropriate". The President also commented he saw "no contradiction" in pardoning Manning over her involvement with Wikileaks while the organisation was believed to have released thousands of hacked emails belonging to the chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.


Obama ended on a personal note, gushing over his daughters Malia, 18, and Sasha, 15.

"Every parent brags on their daughters and their sons. If your parents aren't bragging on you there's something wrong," he said.

"But man, my daughters are something. They just surprise and enchant and impress me more and more every single day as they grow up."

Obama said he and his wife Michelle had been speaking with the teenagers "as parent and child", but also learning from them when it came to discussing the election that saw their father's party defeated.

"I think it was really interesting to see how Malia and Sasha reacted," he said.

"They were disappointed. They paid attention to what their mom said during the campaign and believed it because it's consistent with what we've tried to teach them in our household.

"What we've also tried to teach them is resilience and we've tried to teach them hope, and that the only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world, so that tended to be their attitude."

Obama said neither of his daughters intended to pursue a future in politics, joked that "in that too I think their mother's influence shows".

But said they had grown up in an environment where "they could not help but be patriotic".

"(They) love this country deeply. They see that it's flawed but see they have a responsibility to fix it," he said.

"And I expect that's what they're going to do."

Mr Obama said what made him most proud of his daughters was that they were not cynical about the election result.

"They have not assumed that because their side didn't win, because some of the values they care about don't seem vindicated, that somehow America has rejected them or rejected their values," he said.

"I think they have appreciated the fact this is a big, complicated country, and democracy's messy."

The outgoing's President's share parting message was he believed "we're going to be OK".

"At my core, I think we're going to be OK. We just have to fight for it, have to work for it, and I think you all will help us do that," he said.

- news.com.au

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