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Obama talks Trump, Manning, Russia, more during final news conference as president

President Barack Obama held his final news conference

President Barack Obama held his final news conference on Jan. 18, 2017. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla

President Barack Obama held his last news conference as president on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017.

Obama briefed reporters on the state of former President George H.W. Bush's health before moving on to thank the press and take questions on myriad topics. Bush, 92, was hospitalized over the weekend and was moved to intensive care on Wednesday. He's being treated for pneumonia.

Just one day after commuting the sentence of Chelsea Manning, Obama said the former U.S. military intelligence analyst who leaked classified information to WikiLeaks had served a tough prison sentence.

The president said other leakers had served lesser prison sentences and he felt that in Manning's case justice had been served. Manning will be released in May after serving seven years of her 35-year sentence.

"I looked at the particulars of the Manning case and I felt that in light of all the circumstances, commuting her sentence was entirely appropriate," Obama said.

While Obama urged that people in the national security field needed to work within established whistleblower channels, he added that in a new cyber age it's important to find the right balance between transparency and security.

With regard to Russia, the president said he believes it's in America's interest, as well as the world's, to have a "constructive relationship" with the country, but added that Russia's return to an "adversarial spirit" under President Vladimir Putin has made that difficult.

Moving on to the rapidly changing political climate in America, Obama said it's appropriate for President-elect Donald Trump to move forward with his vision for the country.

"I think a lot of Trump's views will be shaped by his advisers," Obama said, adding that it's important to pay attention to the ongoing confirmation hearings.

Senate committees have been questioning Trump's Cabinet choices as well as other top appointments, such as ambassador to the U.N., since last week.

Seemingly pulling a page out of Trump's playbook, Obama called any notion of widespread voter fraud in the U.S. "fake news."

Following the elimination of the "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy on Cuban immigrants last week, Obama said the decision was made largely due to the growing relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. 

The policy had enabled Cubans who fled to the U.S. to pursue residency if they reached the mainland, but not if they were picked up at sea before reaching land. Obama said it no longer made sense to enforce the policy considering the opening of travel between the two countries.

On Israel, Obama said he was worried that the prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were waning because of growing Israeli settlement of the West Bank. He said his administration did not block a recent U.N. resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement activity because it felt a two-state solution was the only option for peace.

"The goal of the resolution was to simply say that the ... growth of the settlements are creating a reality on the ground that increasingly will make a two-state solution impossible," Obama told reporters. "It was important for us to send a signal, a wake-up call that this moment may be passing."

The president said "we'll see how" Trump's approach on Israel will play out. Obama's final news conference comes one day before Trump's inauguration. 


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