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Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2017 @ 10:36 AM
In a last news conference from the White House Briefing Room, President Barack Obama defended his decision to commute the sentence of military leaker Chelsea Manning, and vowed to speak out against possible immigration and other policy changes by a Trump Administration, even while expressing optimism about what's next.
"I believe in this country. I believe in the American people," the President said.
"At my core, I think we're going to be okay. We just have to fight for it and work for it."
In answering a final round of questions, Mr. Obama made clear that he might insert himself back into the political debate if he felt it necessary, specifically citing the call by President-Elect Trump to overturn the Obama executive actions on immigration.
"I would put in that category efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids," said the President, referring to the DACA and DAPA programs that could be wiped away swiftly by the new President.
"The notion we would just arbitrarily or because of politics, punish those kids - when they didn't do anything wrong themselves - I think would be something that would merit me speaking out," Mr. Obama added.
Mr. Obama also seemed to send a message on other matters that might draw his attention after leaving the White House.
"I would put in that category institutional efforts to silent dissent or the press," he added.
The President seemed to send a message on exactly that by who was chosen for the first question of this news conference, as he called on Jeff Mason of Reuters, who also happens to be the head of the White House Correspondents Association, which has already tangled with Trump officials over press access at the White House.
As for President-Elect Trump, Mr. Obama said he has spoken repeatedly with the next President.
"I have offered my best advice, counsel, about certain issues both foreign and domestic," Mr. Obama said, without offering any real details.
"I can't tell you how convincing I've been," the President said with a smile and chuckle.
Asked about the Inauguration of Mr. Trump, the outgoing President ducked a question about Democrats in the Congress who are going to boycott, saying only that he will be there, along with the First Lady.
The President visited a number of familiar subjects in his final news conference, saying the nation still must do more work on race, again calling for Congress to rein in big money political contributions, and bemoaning the lack of progress on a peace plan in the Middle East.
He also made clear he had no qualms about his decision on Chelsea Manning.
"I feel very comfortable that justice has been served and a message has still been sent," Mr. Obama said, adding that "commuting her sentence was entirely appropriate."
At the end of his news conference, reporters pushed for more from the President on the fallout in his family to the election outcome, which still horrifies many Democrats to this day.
Mr. Obama said his daughters have proved very resilient, and have fully accepted the outcome of the election, saying it was like the maxim that when you get knocked down, you get right back up and go to work.
The President also gave no hint that he thought the nation was about to teeter off the edge of sanity with a President Trump in charge.
His final words to the press corps were simple; "Good luck."