President Barack Obama held his end-of-year press conference at the White House on Friday afternoon. The presser comes amid allegations that Russia was involved with election-related hacking, an issue Obama addressed extensively during the wide-ranging talk.
Obama opened the presser with a brief summary of his administration's progress over the past eight years, specifically noting that Thursday was the "biggest day ever" for HealthCare.gov. Job growth, Obama explained, has also been on the rise:
After speaking on the Aleppo tragedy and closing with a tribute to the Armed Forces, Obama started taking questions. "I think they would be the first to acknowledge that we have done everything we can to make sure that they are successful," Obama said when asked about Russia's alleged election interference. "There hasn't been a lot of squabbling. What we've simply said is the facts." The investigations surrounding the election-related hacks, Obama added, should be a bipartisan issue.
The Obama administration's primary concern was to ensure the "integrity" of the voting process was not affected. "That's exactly how we should have handled it," Obama said of their decision not to speculate on motives when first announcing the breach. "Imagine if we had done the opposite."
Obama also took aim at journalists for the "obsession" surrounding Hillary Clinton-related email leaks. "What is it about our political system that made us vulnerable to these kinds of potential manipulations?" Obama wondered. Speaking at length about the process moving forward, Obama asked reporters to remember that the relationship between the U.S. and Russia has already inspired tensions. "Keep in mind that we already have enormous sanctions against the Russians," he said Friday. "The relationship between us and Russia has deteriorated, sadly, over the years."
Clinton's general treatment by the press during the campaign season was also discussed, a clear source of disappointment for the outgoing POTUS. "I don't think she was treated fairly during this election," he said. "The coverage of her and the issues was troubling."
When asked if he could assure the American public that the 2016 presidential election was a "free and fair" election, Obama said no direct voting machine altering had been detected. "The votes that were cast were counted," Obama said. "They were counted appropriately. We have not see evidence of machines being tampered with."
The cause for concern, however, is still there. "Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave," Obama said of a recent poll that found a third of Republicans reportedly "approve" of Putin. Asked to clarify if he felt Putin directly authorized the election-related breach, Obama referenced a forthcoming report due before he leaves office. "What I can tell you is that the intelligence I have seen gives me great confidence, in their assessment, that the Russians carried out this attack, the hack of the DNC, and the hack of John Podesta," he said.
Obama's advice to the President-elect, thus far, has included strong suggestions to enter prepared. "Before he starts having a lot of interactions with other governments… he should want to have his full team in place," Obama said. "He should want to have his team fully briefed on what's happened in the past."
This election should be a "clarifying" moment for Americans, the President insisted. "It's a useful reminder that voting counts, politics counts," he said Friday. "What the President-elect is doing will be very different from what I was doing." That contrast, Obama said, should be clear to the American people moving forward.
"What I can say with confidence is that what we've done works," Obama said in closing. "That I can prove. I can show you where we were in 2008 and I can show you where we are now, and you can't argue that we're not better off. We are."