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From Trump, Russia to his future: Key quotes from Obama’s last press conference

Addressing the media for the last time in his presidency, US President Barack Obama spoke about President-elect Trump, relations with Russia and his future, among other issues.

world Updated: Jan 19, 2017 09:22 IST
US President Barack Obama smiles as he holds his final press conference at the White House in Washington, January 18, 2017.
US President Barack Obama smiles as he holds his final press conference at the White House in Washington, January 18, 2017. (Reuters)

US President Barack Obama faced the media for the last time on Wednesday, two days before Donald Trump takes office.

Following are the key quotes from the press conference:

On Trump

“I have offered my best advice (...) I can tell you that -- this is something I have told him -- that this is a job of such magnitude that you can’t do it by yourself. You are enormously reliant on a team.”

-- Obama, saying why it’s important to pay attention to confirmation hearings for Trump’s cabinet picks.

On the Middle East

“I think the status quo is unsustainable -- that it is dangerous for Israel, that it is bad for Palestinians, bad for the region and bad for America’s national security. (...) Obviously it’s a volatile environment. What we’ve seen in the past is when sudden unilateral moves are made that speak to some of the core issues and sensitivities of either side, that can be explosive.”

-- Obama, in an apparent reference to Trump’s plan to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

On Russia

“I think it’s in America’s interest and the world’s interest that we have a constructive relationship with Russia. That’s been my approach throughout my presidency.”

“I think it’s fair to say that after President Putin came back into the presidency that an escalating anti-American rhetoric and an approach to global affairs that seem to be premised on the idea that whatever America’s trying to do must be bad for Russians (...) that returned to an adversarial spirit that I think existed during the Cold War, (that) has made the relationship more difficult.”

-- Obama, in perhaps some advice to Trump, who has said improving ties with Russia is a priority.

On the media

“You’re not supposed to be sycophants, you’re supposed to be skeptical. (...) And having you in this building has made this work place better. It keeps us honest, makes us work harder.”

-- Obama in a rather veiled dig at Trump, whose staff have floated the idea of moving the press corps out of the White House to the Old Executive Office Building next door

On race

“We’ve got more work to do on race. It is simply not true that things have gotten worse. They haven’t. Things are getting better. And I have more confidence on racial issues in the next generation than I do in our generation or the previous generation. I think kids are smarter about it.”

-- America’s first black president on race relations

On Chelsea Manning

“Let’s be clear. Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence. (...) I know I feel very comfortable that justice has been served and that a message has still been sent.”

-- Obama, responding to criticism about his decision to commute the 35-year sentence of the transgender army private who leaked classified US documents to WikiLeaks. Manning will be released in May after serving seven years.

On his future

“I want to do some writing, I want to be quiet a little bit and not hear myself talk so darn much. I want to spend precious time with my girls.”

-- The Obamas will head on vacation to Palm Springs after Friday’s inauguration.

On speaking out

“There’s a difference between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake. (...) that would merit me speaking out.”

-- Obama, citing any infringement on a free press, systematic discrimination or efforts to “round up” immigrants and deport them as subjects that would prompt a reaction.

On future of America

“Democracy is messy and doesn’t always work the way you want, doesn’t guarantee certain outcomes. But if you are engaged and involved, then there are a lot more good people than bad in this country.”

“What we’ve also tried to teach them is resilience and tried to teach them hope and that the only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world. (...) At my core, I think we’re going to be okay.”

-- Obama, when asked about how his daughters Sasha and Malia were taking Trump’s election.