President Obama held his last press conference before leaving office in the White House briefing room today. During the press conference, which lasted almost two hours, the word Russia came up a lot. USA Today reports that President Obama delivered harsh words to Russia regarding their interference with the 2016 elections.
President Obama also had harsh words for Russia on the topic of Aleppo, saying Russia had blood on their hands. Early in the press conference, President Obama addressed the atrocities in Aleppo, saying there's not a morning he doesn't wake up while in office without worrying about the children of the world. He hinted he hopes his successor does the same.
According to USA Today, he said, "I ask myself every day if there's something I could have done to make a difference."
President Obama also offered more subtle cues to his successor, President-elect Donald Trump, who has since denied any interference by Russia in the election. USA Today reports that President Obama said in the press conference today that it would behoove Donald Trump to get on board with the idea of a nation-state interfering with 2016 election results, although he didn't use Donald Trump's name specifically.
He did, however, acknowledge through a reporter's question that Trump has denied the CIA's recent report that Russia interfered with the 2016 election.
But President Obama said, "People should pay attention to what our intelligence agencies say."
[caption id="attachment_3803447" align="alignnone" width="670"] US President Barack Obama, left, seen with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at Novo Ogaryovo, Tuesday, July 7, 2009, in Moscow.[Image by Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP Images][/caption]
When asked why the White House wasn't more involved about Russia interfering with the results, President Obama discussed the "hyper-partisanship" of modern politics.
He expressed shock and cited a poll that 30 percent of Republicans think favorably of Russian President Vladimir Putin, noting, "Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave."
President Obama also noted that the Russia hacking and interference of the 2016 election occurred at the highest levels of Russian government.
He said, "We have said, and I will confirm, this occurred at the highest levels of Russia government. Nothing happens without Putin."
President Obama mentioned Vladimir Putin a lot during the press conference and described the timeline of the Russia hacking and the White House's involvement and announcements. He said in the beginning of the summer that the Democratic Party and the White House were alerted to the possibility that the Democratic National Committee was hacked.
He stated that all intelligence officials were briefed on a bipartisan basis. He indicated that this included the House, the Senate, and relevant intelligence communities.
He also said, "Once we had clarity and certainty what in fact had happened, that Russia had hacked, we announced. At the time we did not attribute motives, or any interpretations of why they had done so."
President Obama also said that Russia would experience retaliation over the Russia hacking and interference with the 2016 election results. He made it very clear that information would only be released and declassified when it was safe to do so, as he did not want to put the lives of intelligence officers gathering the information at risk.
He also said only some of the retaliation measures against Russia would be released to the public.
"When we're talking about cybersecurity, a lot of the information is classified. And we don't want them [hackers] to know what we know."
President Obama was also asked directly if he thought the 2016 election was a free and fair election.
He did not answer the question directly, but said, "I can assure the public that there was not, the kind of tampering with the voting process that was a concern. And will continue to be a concern, going forward. The votes that were cast were counted, they were counted appropriately. We have not seen evidence of machines being tampered with. That assurance I can provide."
[caption id="attachment_3803457" align="alignnone" width="670"] President Barack Obama hugs Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton after addressing the delegates during the third day session of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Wednesday, July 27, 2016.[Image by Carolyn Kaster/AP Images][/caption]
President Obama did mention multiple times in the press conference that the votes were counted and that no one tampered with the machines. He did not give a yes or no answer on whether or not he thought the election was fair, but expressed admiration and pride for Hillary Clinton, reports USA Today.
"I couldn't be prouder of Secretary Clinton, and her outstanding service. I do not think she was treated fairly. I think the coverage of her was troubling."
The president also offered a harsh rebuke to any press that covered WikiLeaks during the campaign, hinting that this coverage may in itself have impacted 2016 election results. USA Today reports that the president specifically used the example of Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta's risotto recipe having been leaked on WikiLeaks and did not need reporting on by the press, among other "troubling coverage."
President Obama was also asked direct questions about how he felt about FBI James Comey and his decision to disclose disinformation about Hillary Clinton just 11 days before Election Day. The president declined to answer that question directly as well, notes USA Today.
American values was also a theme of the press conference, with President Obama suggesting many have been lost in the wake of the 2016 election.
Again, he seemed to blame Russia for that, and anyone that supports Putin, by saying, "The Russians can't change us or significantly weaken us. They are a smaller country. They are a weaker country. Their economy doesn't provide anything we want. They don't innovate. They can only impact us if we abandon our values. Mr. Putin can weaken us... but only if we start buying into the notion that it's okay to intimidate the press, or discriminate against people because of their faith or what they look like."
Watch the whole press conference here.
President Obama also expressed concern for the future of American values, saying that this highly partisan election campaign has been the cause of that.
He said, "We've lost track of who it is we are, and what it is we stand for."
Russia appeared to be on topic for almost every single question that President Obama fielded. In addition to how Russia hacking interfered with the 2016 election results, Russia also came up in the discussion on Aleppo when the president was asked if the United States, and the Oval Office, took any responsibility for Aleppo.
Reuters reports that President Obama blamed Russia and Syrian allies, saying, "Responsibility for this brutality lies in one place alone: with the Assad regime and its allies Russia and Iran. And this blood and these atrocities are on their hands."
[Featured Image by Carolyn Kaster/AP Images]