Washington, Jan 18 (EFEUSA).- President Barack Obama on Wednesday at his final White House press conference promised to speak out if he feels that the “core values” of the country are threatened during the presidency of Donald Trump, and he advised his successor to think twice before taking measures that could have “explosive” consequences.
Two days before turning over the White House to Trump, Obama met with reporters and focused on defending his legacy but also on giving some advice and warnings to the president-elect, with whom he said he had held several “long” conversations about the transition of power.
“I don’t expect that there’s going to be … enormous overlap” between Trump’s priorities and those he has pushed for during his eight years leading the US, Obama said.
The president said that he wanted to distance himself from politics for a while, but that “there’s a difference between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues … where I think our core values may be at stake.”
He said he would place in that category if he saw “systematic discrimination being ratified … explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote … institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press … (or) efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids, and send them someplace else, when they love this country,” the latter a reference to undocumented migrants brought to the US as children.
“The notion that 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,” the president said.
Obama also took advantage of the press conference to defend the importance of guaranteeing freedom of the press, given that the president-elect has openly insulted several media outlets that he says are “dishonest.”
The president said that a free press is “essential” to US democracy, and he took pains to provide an example to his successor by taking questions during the press conference from a wide variety of journalists: progressive, conservative, Latino, African American, foreign and a one specializing in reporting on gay rights issues.
Obama also defended some of his recent moves as president, including his decision to eliminate the “wet foot, dry foot” policy on Cuban migrants, which he said represented “a carryover of an old way of thinking that didn’t make sense in this day and age” within the context of normalizing relations with Cuba.
He also said that it made sense for him to commute the prison sentence of former US soldier Chelsea Manning, who in 2010 leaked numerous secret documents to WikiLeaks and who will be able to leave prison in May.
Despite Republican criticism, Obama said that he felt “very comfortable” with his decision on Manning, who “has served a tough prison sentence” after “due process was carried out,” and he added that he did not agree with the idea that her release sends a message that people who leak classified documents will remain unpunished.
He also defended his decision last December to have the US abstain from voting in the UN Security Council on – and not veto – a resolution condemning Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, saying that he felt it was important to “send a signal, a wakeup call” to Israel that the time for implementing a two-state solution in the region may be ending.
Obama also referred to Trump’s recent remarks on the possibility of ending sanctions against Russia for its interference in Ukraine in exchange for cuts in the US and Russian nuclear arsenals.
“The reason we imposed the sanctions … was not because of nuclear weapons issues, it was because the independence and sovereignty of a country, Ukraine, had been encroached upon by force, by Russia. That wasn’t our judgment, that was the judgment of the entire international community,” he said, going on to advise Trump not to “confuse” the issue of Ukraine with nuclear matters.
The president closed the press conference on an optimistic note, saying that “I think we’re going to be OK,” despite the fears of many regarding Trump’s election win and what it may portend for US domestic and international policy.
“We just have to fight for (making the world better), we have to work for it and not take it for granted,” Obama said.