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Report: Obama Holds First News Conference Since Election. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired November 14, 2016 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] JACK KINGSTON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Here's a problem that Rahm Emanuel should get together with Donald Trump on and let's address what's happening in the failed city of Chicago where there's just not the protection for the citizens that you need.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Gloria?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: As a leader of the country, you can't live in a bubble. And it's hard particularly when you're in the White House to live outside that bubble and to see what's going on. Richard Nixon couldn't see what was going on outside his bubble. And I think that it would be wise, and I'm sure we'll hear it from the President today, we got the message from both President Obama and Donald Trump when they met that there was something larger at stake called the country.
And I think it would be wise for Trump to address this head-on. Not just in a word but in a way that tells the country, that tells the country, I care about every single person living in this country.
TAPPER: David, go ahead.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I just want to say to the Congressman, look, you can talk about these individual instances. We just had a President-elect go on television and say he wants to deport 2 million to 3 million people here in the future. A lot of families aren't sure what that means, if their loved ones are going to be ripped away from them. You have a lot of people on health care who do not know where their health care system is going on, if they can count on it.
You have had outbreaks of Anti-Semitism on social media that have made Jews in this country very, very nervous. There are big-picture things that are affecting the way people live in this country, how safe they feel, how secure they feel. And if you've got a population, many of them are frightened. I believe it's the President's responsibility to address that.
KINGSTON: Well, first of all, he's not in a bubble. He hasn't even moved into the White House yet, so --
GERGEN: I didn't say he was in a bubble.
BORGER: You can still be in a bubble. KINGSTON: As the guy who traveled the country vigorously, I think if
there was any candidate in the bubble, it certainly wasn't Donald Trump. Let me say very importantly, we're in agreement. Arrest people who are breaking the law. 71 people were arrested in Portland for breaking the law. I think that's very important. When we hear that I'm citing individual instances, it's all over the country. I think that the left and the right could certainly come together and clamp down on hate crimes. There's no discussion here.
S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The Congressman is touting the arrest of these protesters in Oregon as if it proves your point. It doesn't. That's how divisive Donald Trump is as a person. Regardless of why, something needs to be done to address this unrest. And Donald Trump saying, stop it, I think, is pretty insufficient.
KINGSTON: You know, remember, he has said stop it, haven't heard it from Hillary Clinton, haven't heard from the Democratic leadership, haven't heard it from President Obama. May see it in a few minutes and I'm looking forward to it, but I think we could all agree when people break the law, the law should be enacted. They should be arrested or whatever --
CUPP: I did hear it from President Obama.
GERGEN: I'm curious, I'm curious, Congressman, about the people arrested for protesting, these 71 you cite. If there's a Latino undocumented person in that group who's arrested for protesting, do you think that person should be deported?
KINGSTON: I think the law should apply, absolutely. Whatever it is. Are you saying --
GERGEN: So, that person should be deported? If you're engaged in peaceful protest?
KINGSTON: If there's a law -- of course you should enforce the law. That's not a debate. I want to say this, I'm kind of glad you brought it up because that's what this election sort of boiled down to is, are we a nation of law? Are we a nation of relative laws that depends on the mayor of a city? If he disagrees with something that's the law or the constitution, doesn't have to enforce it. I think that's why so many people across America felt alienated that their government has let them down.
BORGER: You know, this election in many ways, as we've all talked about for months and months was about fear. For Hillary Clinton it was about fear of Donald Trump. And for Donald Trump it was about fear of Hillary Clinton, and what the Democrats were about to do to you. I think now when you are about to become President of the United States, you can't stoke fear. You have to calm it and say, OK, we had the election, I understand why you're afraid. And here is why you should not be.
TAPPER: Do you think Donald Trump, President-elect Trump, is stoking fear? BORGER: Well, I think he's -- he's not stoking -- he's not calming it
down. This is what I'm saying. I think that he is not calming it down, which is what he ought to do.
TAPPER: Let me play devil's advocate. Why is his obligation as opposed to the sitting President?
BORGER: I think it's both. What I was saying before, when they met last week, I think they took the first step because they met last week. It was a cordial session. They seemed to get along. The President spoke his peace, clearly, about Obamacare and other issues, and Donald Trump respected him and liked him and listened to him and that for the sake of the country, these two might meet again.
[15:35:00] That was a great thing. So, I think that was the first step. I think we might hear it from President Obama and it would be great to hear it from the President-elect.
TAPPER: We are waiting for President Obama, who will come out any second now and take questions from reporters. First news conference since the election of President-elect Donald Trump. We should also report that the Kremlin just announced that Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone with President-elect Trump today. The two men spoke, according to the Kremlin, in favor of working to improve and normalize relations between the two countries. Here is President Obama right now.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, everybody. In a couple hours, I'll be departing on my final foreign trip as President. And while we're abroad, I'll have a chance to take a few of your questions, but I figured, why wait. I know there's a lot of domestic issues that people are thinking about,
So, I wanted to see if I could clear up some of the underbrush so that when we're overseas and people are asking about foreign policy questions, people don't feel obliged to tack on three other questions to them. Let me -- I know you still will, yes. That I'm aware, but I'm trying something out here.
First of all, let mention three brief topics. First of all, as I discussed with the President-elect on Thursday, my team stands ready to accelerate in the next steps that are required to ensure a smooth transition. And we are going to be staying in touch as we travel. I remember what it was like when I came in eight years ago. It is a big challenge. This office is bigger than any one person, and that's why ensuring a smooth transition is so important.
It's not something that the constitution explicitly requires, but it is one of those norms that are vital to a functioning democracy. Similar to norms of civility and tolerance and a commitment to reason and facts and analysis. It's part of what makes this country work. And as long as I'm President, we are going to uphold those norms and cherish and uphold those ideals. As I've told my staff, we should be very proud that their work has already ensured that when we turn over the keys, the car's in pretty good shape. We are indisputably in a stronger position today than we were when I
came in eight years ago. Jobs have been growing for 73 straight months, incomes are rising, poverty is falling, carbon emissions have come down without impinging on our growth, and so my instructions to my team are that we run through the tape. We make sure that we finish what we started, that we don't let up in these last couple of months. The goal is on January 21st America is in the strongest position possible and, hopefully, there's an opportunity for the next President to build on that.
Number two, our work has also helped to stabilize the global economy. And because there is one President at a time, I'll speak this week reinforcing America's support for the approaches we've taken to promote economic growth and global security on a range of issues. I look forward to my first visit in Greece, and then in Germany I'll visit with Chancellor Merkel, who's probably been my closest international partner these past eight years.
I'll also signal our solidarity with our closest allies and express our support for a strong, integrated and united Europe. It's essential to our national security and it's essential to global stability. That's why the transatlantic alliance and the NATO alliance have endured for decades under Democratic and Republican administrations. Finally, in Peru I'll meet with leaders of country that have been the focus of foreign policy in our rebalance of the Asia-Pacific.
This is a time of great change in the world, but America's always been a pillar of strength for peoples around the globe. And that's what it must continue to be. Finally, on a personal note, Michelle and I want to offer our deepest condolences to Gwen Ifill's family and all of you, her colleagues, on her passing. Gwen was a friend of ours. She was an extraordinary journalist.
[15:40:00] She always kept faith with the fundamental responsibilities of her profession, asking tough questions, holding people in power accountable and defending a strong and free press that makes our democracy work.
I always appreciated Gwen's reporting, even when I was at the receiving end of one of her tough and thorough interviews. Whether she reported from a convention floor or from the field, whether she sat at the debate moderator's table or at the anchor's deck, she not only informed today's citizens but she also inspired tomorrow's journalists.
She was an especially powerful role model for young women and integrity, she blazed a trail as one-half of the first all-female anchor team on network news. So, Gwen did her country a great service. Michelle and I join her family and her colleagues and everybody else who loved her in remembering her fondly today.
So, with that I'm going to take some questions. And because Josh Earnest has some pull around here, he just happened to put at the top of the list Colleen Nelson of the "Wall Street Journal". My understanding is, Colleen, this is wrapping up your stint here and you're going to Kansas City?
COLLEEN NELSON, REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes.
OBAMA: Josh just happens to be from Kansas City, so I didn't know if there was any coincidence there, but we wish you the best of luck in your new endeavors.
NELSON: As it turns out there is no place like home.
OBAMA: There you go.
NELSON: You're about to embark on your final foreign trip. What will you say to other foreign leaders about your successor? They have expressed the same misgivings you have about Donald Trump. Should they be worried about the future of U.S. foreign policy? Secondly, as Democrats scramble to regroup after a pretty shocking upset, what is your advice about where the party goes now and who should lead your party?
OBAMA: One of the great things about the United States, is that when it comes to world affairs, the President, obviously, is the leader of the executive branch, the commander-in-chief, the spokesperson for the nation. But the influence and the work we have is the result not just of the President. It is the result of countless interactions and arrangements and relationships between our military and other militaries and our diplomats and other diplomats, and intelligence officers and development workers.
And there is enormous continuity that makes us that indispensable nation when it comes to maintaining order and promoting prosperity around the world. That will continue. In my conversation with the President-elect, he expressed a great interest in maintaining our strategic relationships. So, one of the messages I will be able to deliver is his commitment to NATO and the trans-Atlantic alliance. I think that's one of the most important functions I can serve at this stage during this trip to let them know that there is no weakening of resolve when it comes to America's commitment to maintaining a strong and robust NATO relationship.
And those alliances aren't just good for Europe, they're good for the United States. And they're vital for the world. With respect to the Democratic party, look, as I said in the rose garden right after the election, when your team loses, everybody gets deflated and it's hard and it's challenging. And so, I think it's a healthy thing for the Democratic party to go through some reflection. You know, I think it's important for me not to be big-footing that consideration. I think we want to see new voices and new ideas emerge. That's part of the reason why, it's really a useful thing.
I think the Democrats should not waiver on our core beliefs and principles. The belief that we should have an economy that works for everybody, not just a few. The belief that America at its best is inclusive and not exclusive.
[15:45:00] That we insist on the dignity and god-given potential and worth of every child, regardless of race or gender or sexual orientation or what zip code they were born in.
That we are committed to a world in which we keep America safe but we recognize that our power doesn't just flow from our extraordinary military, it also flows from the strength of our ideals and our principles and our values. So, there's going to be a core that shouldn't be up for debate. Should be our north star.
But how we organize politically, I think, is something that we should spend some time thinking about. I believe that we have better ideas, but I also believe that good ideas don't matter if people don't hear them. And one of the issues the Democrats have to be clear on is that given population distribution across the country, we have to compete everywhere. We have to work at the grassroots level. Something that's been a running thread in my career. You know, I won Iowa not because the demographics dictated that I would win Iowa. It was because I spent 87 days going to every small town and fair and fish fry and VFW hall, and there were some counties where I might have lost, but maybe I lost by 20 points instead of 50 points.
There's some counties maybe I won that people didn't expect because people had a chance to see and listen to you a get a sense of who you stood for and who you were fighting for. And the challenge for a national party is how do you dig in there and create those kinds of structures so that people have a sense of what it is that you stand for. And that increasingly is difficult to do just through a national press strategy. It's increasingly difficult to do because of the splintering of the press. I think the discussions that have been taking place you build more grassroots organizing, how do you build up state parties and local parties and school board elections you're paying attention to and state rep races and city council races, that is all, I think, will contribute to stronger outcomes in the future.
And I'm optimistic that will happen. For Democrats who are feeling completely discouraged, I've been trying to remind them, everybody remembers my Boston speech in 2004. They may not remember me showing up here in 2005 when John Kerry had lost a close election, Tom Daschle, the leader of the Senate, had been beaten in an upset. Kim Salazar and I were the only two democrats that won nationally.
Republicans controlled the Senate and the House. And two years later, Democrats were winning back Congress and four years later I was President of the United States. Things change pretty rapidly. But it does -- they don't change inevitably. They change because you work for it. Nobody said democracy's supposed to be easy. It's hard. And in a big country like this, it probably should be hard. Mark.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you, sir.
OBAMA: Good to see you.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Good to see you. Mr. President, what can you tell us about the learning curve on becoming President. Can you tell us how long it took you before you were fully comfortable at the job, if that ever happens, and did you discuss this matter with President- elect Trump? OBAMA: About a week ago I started feeling pretty good. No. Look,
the -- I think the learning curve always continues. This is a remarkable job. It is like no other job on and it is a constant flow of information and challenges and issues. That is truer now than it has ever been, partly because of the nature of information and the interconnection between regions of the world.
[15:50:00] If you were President 50 years ago, the tragedy in Syria might not even penetrate what the American people were thinking about on a day-to-day basis. Today they are seeing vivid images a child in the aftermath of a bombing.
There was a time when, if you had a financial crisis in southeast Asia somewhere, it had no impact on our markets. Today it does.
So, the amount of information incoming that any administration has to deal with today and respond to much more rapidly than ever before, that makes it different. I was watching a documentary that -- during the Bay of Pigs crisis. JFK had about two weeks before anybody reported on it. Imagine that. I think it's fair to say that if something like that happens under a current President, they got it figured out within about an hour what the response is.
These are the kinds of points I shared with the President-elect. It was a free flowing and, I think, useful conversation. I hope it was. I tried to be as honest as I could about the things, I think, any President coming needs to think about. And probably the most important point that I made was that how your staff, particularly your chief-of-staff, your national security adviser, your white house counsel, how you set up a process and system to service information, generate options for a President. Understanding that ultimately the President is going to be the final decision maker, that that's something that has to be attended to right away.
I have been blessed by having -- and I admittedly am biased -- some of the smartest, hardest working good people in my administration that I think any President has ever had. And as a consequence of that team, I've been able to make good decisions. And if you don't have that around you, then you'll get swamped. So, I hope that he appreciated that advice. What I also discussed was the fact that I had been encouraged by his statements on election night about the need for unity and his interest in being the President for all people. And that how he staffs, the first steps he takes, the first impressions he makes, the reset that can happen after an election, all those things are important and should be thought about.
And I think it's important to give him the room and the space to do that. It takes time to put that together. But I emphasized to him that, look, in an election like this that was so hotly contested and so divided, gestures matter, and how he reaches out to groups that may not have supported him, how he signals his interest in their issues or concerns, I think those are the kinds of things that can set a tone that will help move things forward once he's actually taken office.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How long did it take before you were at ease in the job? OBAMA: Well, I really didn't have time to worry about being at ease,
because you recall we were losing about 800,000 jobs a month. The good news is that in some ways my experience is atypical. It's hard to find analogous situations. By the time FDR came into office, the depression had been going on for a couple years. We were in the midst of a freefall. The financial system was locking up. The auto industry was about to go belly up. The housing market had entirely collapsed.
[15:55:00] Advantages that I had was that I was too busy to worry about how acclimated I was feeling in the job. We just had to make a bunch of decisions. In this situation, we're turning over a country that has challenges, has problems, and obviously, there are people out there feeling deeply disaffected. Otherwise we wouldn't have had the results we had in the election.
On the other hand, if you look at the basic indicators of where the country is right now, the unemployment rate is as low as it's been in eight, nine years. Incomes and wages have both gone up over the last year faster than they have in a decade or two. We've got historically low uninsured rates. The financial systems are stable.
The stock market is hovering around its all-time high and 401k's he been restored. The housing market has recovered. We have challenges internationally, but our most immediate challenge with respect to ISIL, we're seeing significant progress in Iraq and Mosul is now increasingly being retaken by Iraqi security forces supported by us.
Our alliances are in strong shape. The progress we've made with respect to carbon emissions has been greater than any country on earth. And gas is $2 a gallon. So, he will have time and space, I think, to make judicious decisions. The incoming administration doesn't have to put out a huge number of fires. They may want to take the country in a significantly different direction, but they have time to consider what exactly they want to achieve, and that's a testament to the tremendous work my team has done over the last eight years. I'm very proud of them for it. Athena Jones.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You said more than once you did not believe Donald Trump would ever be elected President and that you thought he was unfit for office. Now that you've spent time with him, sitting down with him for an hour and a half in the oval office, do you now think the President-elect is qualified to be President? If I can do a combined question, the other one is you mentioned staffing and tone. What do you say to those Americans who may not doubt that there will be peaceful transition but that are concerned by some of the policies or sentiments either expressed by President-elect Trump himself or his supporters that may be hostile to minorities and others? Specifically, what I'm talking about the announcement that Steve Bannon who is proponent of the so-called alt-right movement, what many call the white nationalist movement is going to have a prominent role in the White House as his chief adviser? What kind of message does that send to the world?
OBAMA: Without copping out, I think it is fair to say that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on every appointment that the President-elect starts making. If I want to consistent with the notion we're going to facilitate a smooth transition. Look, the people have spoken. Donald Trump will be the next President, the 45th President of the United States.
And it will be up to him to set up a team that he thinks will serve him well and reflect his policies. And those who didn't vote for him have to recognize that that's how democracy works. That's how this system operates. When I won, there were a number of people who didn't like me and didn't like what I stood for. And I think that whenever you've got an incoming President, especially on the other side, it takes a while for people to reconcile themselves with that new reality.
Hopefully, it's a reminder that elections matter and voting counts. And so, I don't know how many times we have to relearn this lesson, because we ended up having 43 percent of the country not voting who were eligible to vote, but it makes a difference.
[16:00:00] Given that President-elect Trump is now trying to balance what he said in the campaign and the commitments he made to his supporters with working with those who disagreed with him and members of Congress, and reaching out to constituencies that didn't vote for him, I think it's important for us to let him make his decisions.