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WORLD RIGHT NOW WITH HALA GORANI
Donald Trump Appoints Two Top Advisers; Trump Gives First TV Interview Since Election; Bannon Has Ties To "Alt-Right" Movement; Examining Trump's Complex Relationship With Media; Eastern Aleppo Warned To Evacuate Before Bombing; President Obama Holds News Conference. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired November 14, 2016 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:10] HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Hala Gorani. We are live at CNN London. This is THE WORLD RIGHT NOW.
We begin this hour at the White House where President Barack Obama is getting ready to take questions about the election that stunned America and
the world. He will be speaking to reporters in about 15 minutes in the briefing room.
You see some reporters doing some live reports there in front of the podium. This all before he heads off for his final foreign trip in office.
Mr. Obama's mission overseas has changed dramatically after Donald Trump's victory at the polls. Now we know that he will be visiting Greece, Germany
as well meeting with Angela Merkel, and he'll also be flying to Peru.
CNN has learned he will now focus on calming anxieties about his successor. Quite a turn of events. After he's warned for months that Trump is unfit
to handle the presidency not to mention the nuclear codes.
Now as Mr. Obama's presidency winds down, Donald Trump is putting his team together and his presidency is taking shape. Trump has announced his first
staff picks, two top White House aides who represent different wings of the Republican Party.
One is a Washington insider who is about as mainstream as you get while the other is so far right that some Republicans don't want to claim him at all.
CNN's Phil Mattingly explains.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President-elect Donald Trump's administration starting to take shape. Trump naming RNC Chairman Reince
Priebus as his chief of staff and Campaign CEO Steve Bannon as his chief strategist and senior counselor creating two dueling power centers and a
potential rivalry between his two top aides.
Priebus, the ultimate Washington insider with deep connections to GOP leaders. Bannon, the polar opposite. The man who is operating on the
Republican fringe as executive chairman of breitbart.com.
One with a known talent riling up the grass roots while maintaining close ties to the alt-right movement within which anti-Semitism and racist tropes
are pervasive. Bannon's appointment drawing sharp condemnation.
The spokesman for Senator Minority Leader Harry Reid saying in a statement, quote, "It is easy to see why the KKK views Trump as their champion when
Trump appoints one of the foremost peddlers of white supremacist themes and rhetoric as his top aide."
The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League calling it a, quote, "Sad day." The executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations says the
appointment of Bannon since the disturbing message that the anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and white nationalist ideology will be welcome in the
As thousands across the country protest against Trump for the fifth straight day, Trump addressing his supporters who have harassed minorities
in his first TV interview post-election.
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: I say stop it if it helps, I will say this right to the cameras, stop it.
MATTINGLY: Trump also appearing to tweak a central tenant of his immigrant proposal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're talking about a fence in the Republican Congress. Would you accept the fence?
TRUMP: For certain areas I would, but certain areas of the wall is more appropriate. I'm very good at this. It's called construction. I could be
MATTINGLY: And discussing his Supreme Court appointees calling same sex marriage a settled issue taking a hard stance against national abortion
TRUMP: Having to do with abortion, what if it ever were overturned, it could go back to the states.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But then some women won't be able to get an abortion.
[15:05:07]TRUMP: It will go back to the states. Perhaps you have to go to another state.
GORANI: All right, there you have it. That's the interview that Donald Trump gave "60 Minutes'" Leslie Stahl. Now we learned some very
interesting things from that interview, but there is so much uncertainty about what lies ahead.
Let's bring in CNN political analyst, Josh Rogin. We're also joined by Stephen Collinson, a senior reporter for CNN Politics. Gentlemen, thanks
to both of you for being with us.
I just want to remind our viewers that we are expecting President Obama to take to the podium in the briefing room. He will be taking about ten
questions, we understand. Those are live images coming to us from the White House. This is before he departs on his last foreign trip in office.
He is going to Peru, Greece, and Germany.
I'm sure in Germany he is going to have some very serious discussions, Josh Rogin, with Angela Merkel, because people around the world and certainly
leaders that fully expected Hillary Clinton to be elected will be asking President Obama questions about this transition, Josh.
JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, from my sources telling President Obama does not have a lot of information to give these world
leaders. Despite the fact that President Obama and President-elect Trump met for 90 minutes last week in the White House, the Obama administration
came away without a clear understanding of what President Trump's priority is, agenda items and messaging will be when he becomes president.
So it puts President Obama in this very awkward position where he wants to lay out a vision of where American foreign policy and even America's role
in the world is going and we just don't know.
The reason we don't know is because the Trump administration doesn't know that's because they haven't gotten around to figuring it out yet.
GORANI: And Stephen Collinson, the "60 Minutes" interview, many of his positions have already softened quite considerably. Well, for one thing
when asked about these hate attacks, he asked those who support who have been perpetuating some of them to stop.
But regarding Obamacare that some elements of Obamacare could remain. That some parts of this wall that he promised with Mexico could be a fence.
What did we learn about how he is likely to lead once in the White House?
STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: I think there are a lot of contradictory messages being sent, Hala. You know, on the campaign
trail, Donald Trump did propose that one of the more popular parts of Obamacare, allowing people with pre-existing health conditions to keep
health coverage would be part of his plan.
But the problem is when you start stripping away other parts of Obamacare, some of those positions don't work. You're right, he said to the camera
and "stop it" when he was asked about these hate crimes unfolding in the United States.
And that is compatible with his vow to sort of bring people together then he appoints this guy, Steve Bannon, who is a sort representative of the
alt-right white nationalist stream in sort of fringe conservative politics to a central role in his White House.
I think this is symptomatic and a little bit of the balancing act that Donald Trump is going to have to pursue as president. He is going to have
to do things that appeal to the middle.
He is going to have to employ establishment people like Reince Priebus as his chief of staff if he wants to govern and (inaudible) to have an
effective presidency, but he doesn't want to lose contact with the people who elected him.
That's where Bannon comes in. That's where, you know, he is sort of hedging on, will he build the wall or not. He is going to build some kind
of wall because that's the ultimate symbol of his presidency.
So he is trying to sort of -- on one hand, you know, appease the establishment and on the other hand, keep faith with the people who sent
him to the White House.
GORANI: Let's talk a little more about Steve Bannon, the chairman of Breitbart News. This is a very, very far right website as, by the way,
often sort of deals in conspiracy theory. Will Steve Bannon have sever ties with this media group of his?
ROGIN: I don't think he has any intention of distancing himself from the movement and the media empire he helped to build. What the early reports
are that he is reaching out to like-minded groups in foreign countries, including in France, to sort of build relationships and alliances.
So we're looking at an expansion of Steve Bannon's effort to sort of project his version of what the media should look like and combat our
version to what the media should look like.
And that has very grave implications for sort of the public understanding of news and also direction of communications coming out of the Trump White
GORANI: And Stephen Collinson, what exactly will be Steve Bannon's role, a strategist, what does that mean exactly?
COLLINSON: I think it is someone that will talk to Trump about the political implications of what he is doing. He will not be a nuts and
bolts guy, talking to people on Capitol Hill saying how do we get this passed.
[15:10:02]I think he will be the guardian of the sort of rhetorical and philosophical side of Donald Trump that we saw on the campaign trail. We
are just talking about the media there. I think it is quite possible that Breitbart News becomes an almost semiofficial sort of voice of the White
House. That sort of talks to Donald Trump's supporters, you know, it is --
GORANI: Kind of like a media arm maybe of the Trump presidency?
COLLINSON: Exactly. And we're also hearing some reports that Laura Ingraham who is a prominent right wing radio host in the United States is
being considered for the post of press secretary and that would be another way in which Donald Trump, who spent his whole campaign attacking the
media, is setting up a structure in the White House.
It is very hostile to what he would say is the main stream media that is biased against him. So I think (inaudible) for a very difficult period
between the White House and the press next year.
GORANI: Right. I was going to say he is quite happy to use the media when, of course, those media groups support him. Barack Obama, I have to
ask you, finally, Josh, what is his objective with this news conference? He has a few months left. How does he protect his legacy? Donald Trump
has promised to undo almost everything.
ROGIN: Right. What my White House sources tell me is that following their meeting last week, President Obama has decided to rededicate himself to
helping Donald Trump and his administration to get ready for the giant task ahead of them.
He's decided to put their differences aside. He knows that the Trump administration is set upon picking away as his legacy and reversing the
progress that he feels he made.
Nevertheless, President Obama is likely to tell reporters in the country and foreign leaders from now until the time he steps down is that it is in
the best interest of the country and the world for both of these administrations to work together to have the smoother transition as
Whether or not he believes that is another question, but that is what he will say and that's what he's going to do.
GORANI: Well, it's the reality of what happened on November 8th. Donald Trump was elected president. Josh Rogin, thanks very much. Stephen
Collinson, as always, thank you.
What we're seeing on the right-hand side of your screen there is the briefing room at the White House. We're expecting President Barack Obama
to walk out and take to the stage and address reporters and also take we understand about ten questions before he heads out on his international
trip, his last in office.
All right, Trump's appointment of Steve Bannon is drawing strong reactions today. White nationalist leaders are thrilled believing they now have an
ally in the White House.
Democrats and some fellow Republicans, it has to be said, are horrified. The leader of House Democrats Nancy Pelosi says there is no sugar coating
the threat calling the appointment, quote, "An alarming signal that President-elect Trump remains committed to the hateful and divisive visions
that defined his campaign." Sunlen Serfaty has that story.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONENT (voice-over): Donald Trump elevating Steve Bannon to chief strategist and senior counselor in the White House.
Already multiple hate watch groups are now rebuking the appointment, voicing their concerns about Bannon's ties to the alt-right.
Bannon was brought on as CEO of the Trump campaign in August. He came in as the head of the right wing website Breitbart News with the nationalist,
Known for controversial headlines like Bill Kristol, Republican spoiler, renegade Jew, and birth control makes women unattractive and crazy.
STEVE BANNON, CHIEF STRATEGIST AND SENIOR COUNSELOR, TRUMP ADMINISTRATION (via telephone): What we need to do is bitch-slap the Republican Party and
get those guys and if we have to, we'll take it over.
SERFATY: Bannon's longtime mission to take down the establish wing of the Republican Party.
BANNON: If you're fighting to take this country back, you know, it's not going to be sunshine and patriots, it's going to be people who want to
fight. Andrew Breitbart was all about the fight. In fact we call ourselves internally the fight club.
SERFATY: Bannon's target number one has been House Speaker Paul Ryan. E- mails obtained by "The Hill" newspaper showed Bannon giving orders to his staff to try to take him down. Saying the long game is to have Ryan gone
Bannon, a former Navy officer and Goldman Sachs banker also surrounded by controversy in his private life. In 2007, his ex-wife accused him of
domestic violence and making anti-Semitic remarks saying in court, he doesn't like Jews and that he doesn't like they raise their kids to be
whiny brats and that he didn't want the girls going to school with Jews. But Bannon's camp said he never said it.
TRUMP: I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans.
SERFATY: Now with Bannon in the White House critics questioning Trump's inclusive vision. Sunlen Serfaty, CNN, Washington.
[15:15:01]GORANI: In light of Trump's track record and newest appointments, how will his relationship with the media develop? Senior
reporter for media and politics, Dylan Byers joins us live from Los Angeles.
We have a lot to talk about, Dylan. First of all so many of the tweets that Donald Trump has posted since he was elected on November 8th were
attacks against the press.
First, the journalists were inciting illegal protestors. That was on the night some of these demonstrations started against his election.
And at least three that I counted against "The New York Times. "The New York Times" sent a letter to their subscribers apologizing for their bad
coverage of me," he tweeted, "I wonder if it will change -- doubt it."
What should we make of this? What will this tell us about Donald Trump's future relationship with mainstream media outlet?
DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR REPORTER FOR MEDIA AND POLITICS: So far, there has been two faces to President-elect Trump's transition. On the one hand,
he's calling for unity. He is certainly making some concessions. Looking like he wants to work with everyone and be a president for everyone.
On the other hand, he continues to make these attacks on the press to sort of have these, you know, erratic and spontaneous tweets against the media,
generally, and specifically news outlets like the "New York Times," which doesn't seemed to be presidential in the least.
So when you ask the question what will Trump's relationship with the media be like during his presidency? Like so much about Donald Trump, it is wait
and see. We really don't know.
But every indication is that he will not hold himself back from fighting back against the press when he feels like he has been on the receiving end
of negative coverage.
Now whether that manifests itself in 3:00 a.m. tweets, that's one thing. Whether it becomes efforts to sue the press, to change liable laws,
blacklist reporters from his press meetings. That obviously is something that's much more severe and serious.
GORANI: But that is a concern among journalists you've been speaking to?
BYERS: It's absolutely among journalists and it's not a concern that comes out of nowhere. It's a concern that comes from having covered his campaign
for 16 months. There were reporters who were blacklisted from his campaign events.
He did make threats to sue the press, certainly in going after the media as hard as he has in calling, you know, the media dishonest, and what have
you, and naming reporters by name, and he has invited some of his more extremist supporters.
He's incited to make threats against these reporters based on their religion, ethnicity, and any form of their identity and we've seen this
rise in sort of attacks against reporters or at least threats of attacks against reporters.
These are serious issues. It's issues that the Trump campaign would like to dismiss and say OK, the media is making too much of that. They're over
The fact of the matter is that some reporters are seeing these things, they're seeing letters show up in their mailboxes at home threatening them
because they're Jewish, African-American, or simply because they felt the coverage of Trump was too critical. These are serious issues and we have
to pay attention to them.
GORANI: Sure. I think we have all been on the receiving end of some of those delightful messages on social media. Let me ask you about Steve
Bannon. So he is currently the executive chairman of Breitbart News.
No plans as far as we know to sever ties or establish some sort of firewall between that media group and himself now that he's chief strategist.
Let's talk a little bit about what Breitbart News is because our international viewers might not know it so well.
BYERS: Yes. Breitbart has effectively become the voice of the far right populous movement in this country or what's known as the Alt-Right, which
is the term that they coined for themselves. I think the way that Bannon would describe that is to say it champions the working class, the people
over the powerful.
But the way it often manifests itself to critics or to anyone with even a slightly skeptical view is it's very often anti-immigrant, in traffics, in
conspiracy theories, occasionally in hate speech.
So while trying to be the voice for what is considered the forgotten majority, the truth is that it is very much on the edge of what does
qualify as hate speech and conspiracy theory and I think that is very troublesome for a lot of people.
That a person who started that site and really fuelled that sight and fuelled much of Donald Trump's own rhetoric during the campaign, some of
that anti-immigrant populist far-right rhetoric would have a seat at the table in Trump's administration and indeed that is going to be the case.
GORANI: And we're really in an unchartered waters here in terms of how news is shared, circulated, and how often fake news goes viral as well.
During the campaign, you had some flat out factually incorrect stories shared millions of times.
[15:20:12]And what is what we call the mainstream media, traditional media groups, that can't just make stuff up, you kind of have to compete with
that for attention. I wonder how that is going to change politics going forward.
BYERS: It's a wonderful question and there is a lot of questions that the media will have to wrestle with in terms of how it covers a President Trump
and his administration.
When it comes to these questions of fake news, you know, I think the best that the mainstream media can do is sort of charge ahead and be credible at
all times, but also be -- these organizations need be outlets that Donald Trump supporters feel like they can trust.
They need to sort of earn back -- because one thing that's happened with social media, the internet, and intense partisanship going on in this
country is people are very much on a choose your own news track where they can pick whatever they want and very often they believe whatever they want.
GORANI: Almost 50 percent of them, we get our news off of Facebook. I mean, you know, obviously we're professional journalists that go the extra
mile, but it's not lazy. It's the way that news is disseminated these days.
BYERS: No, it is the way news is disseminated and people, you know, trust sources that should not be trusted and look, the trust in the main stream
media right now is at an all-time low. It is 32 percent among all Americans according to Pew Research.
It's even lower among conservatives and Republicans. Perhaps that's an insurmountable challenge, but I think the mainstream media needs to look
forward and needs adhere more so than ever to being reliable stewards and sources of information.
GORANI: All right, Dylan Byers, thanks very much, joining us from L.A. as we continue to wait for President Obama. He is going to address reporters
in the briefing room.
By the way, he is doing this right before leaving on his last foreign trip in office. He is going Greece, Germany, and then he will go to Peru. This
is the briefing room where you normally see Josh Earnest, his press secretary. He will be taking questions.
We're expecting this event to last an hour. Now he's 7 minutes late right now. His schedule indicated that this would start at 3:15. Not unusual to
be a few minutes late, but as soon as this starts, of course, we will go right to it live.
Still to come this evening, these text messages delivered a terrifying warning for everyone inside the Syrian city of Aleppo. The full story
coming up next.
GORANI: Welcome back. "Get out our die," a chilling text message sent to everyone in rebel-held Eastern Aleppo in Syria Sunday, warning people there
to get out before a massive assault.
[15:25:11]It gave residents 24 hours to do so. The Syrian government almost certainly sent it out. Syria's key backer, Russia, has this
aircraft carrier deployed off the country's coast.
Russian state television reports that it's been launching mission from there for days now. Remember, much of Aleppo is already in ruins, and look
at this new drone footage capturing some of the utter devastation there. Take a look at this.
This used to be bustling streets, packed streets and alley ways, a very vibrant city. This is the eastern part of the city, much of it as you see
there pretty much annihilated.
This used to be an overpass there passing through a major artery in rebel- held East Aleppo. Our Will Ripley is in Istanbul, Turkey, right now, right next door to Syria. Talk to us about these text messages that were sent to
residents in Eastern Aleppo. What did they say?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The text message essentially warned everybody that within 24 hours, it has been more than 24 hours since
that text was sent out to really any moment now they should be prepared for a targeted assault using advanced weaponry.
That's what these messages said. People remember just a month ago, the horrific bombardment that continued for a month, 500 people died during
that time. There was one week in late September when 96 children were killed.
And I just actually spoke a few minutes on Skype with a doctor in Eastern Aleppo. He's one of 31 doctors that are treating this portion of the
rebel-held portion of the city that has more than 250,000 people.
He says he is sleeping about two hours a night seeing 100 to 150 patients per day. He expects that once this aerial bombardment gets under way yet
again, they will have to tell people with cancer and diabetes that they can't even get treatment at all.
Because they will be inundated with trauma cases, that's what was happening just a short month ago before this humanitarian pause when supposedly these
corridors were opened up and it should have allowed people to leave, but there was snipers pointing at them.
The rebels were accusing the regime. The regime accusing the rebels. You have a lot of civilians that claimed that they are trapped. They have
enough food and medicine to last them for another month and a half or so.
And he was sitting in front of the camera, Hala, with his 11-month-old daughter in his lap. He lives at the hospital with his wife and their
young baby, and he said he doesn't know what's going to happen next.
But he feels those memories of what his city used to be like before the destruction are what keep him going. He does have hope that somehow people
will get through this, but they're anticipating a very rough go of it in the days and weeks to come.
GORANI: Well, I mean, he is very optimistic. I have to say. Not everyone shares his optimism. Of course, the question, when the Syrian regime tells
you to get out, where do you go? These people live there. They don't necessarily trust government forces and authorities to protect them where
ever they go and they just don't want to leave their homes.
RIPLEY: And what is sad is that winter is coming. People found these remarkable ways to survive in the midst of all this destruction. There are
rooftop gardens. People grow vegetables that they can then trade at the market for things like rice, spaghetti, and lentils.
We talk to a father of two earlier today. That's what he is feeding his two sons every night, rice, spaghetti and lentils. He can't afford to buy
meat because it is costing $40 for a kilo.
And people's saving are dwindling just trying to get small provisions at market. Winter coming. They can't grow the vegetables anymore. The last
round of U.N. food rations were handed out last week.
And if aide is not allowed into the city, if we see the regime use the tactic that they used when they surrounded, for example, the suburbs of
And basically put ground troops around the entire perimeter of the rebel- held area, started the intense aerial bombardment and then told people either you're going to starve to death and be bombed or you can get on
buses and leave, forcing them out of their homes.
That has been a very brutal and yet successful tactic on the part of the regime and people here say they don't want to leave. But there might come
a point where they don't have a voice if things go as they have in the past, if this tactic is used with the support of this huge Russian flotilla
just off the Syrian coast.
GORANI: All right, Will Ripley in Istanbul, thanks very much. We'll continue to monitor the situation in Aleppo after residents were told to
leave more than 24 hours ago now or face the consequences of possible bombardment.
Still come, the U.S. president due to take to the podium in front of reporters. He was scheduled for 3:15. It's 3:30 Eastern Time right now.
He will face their questions for the first time since Donald Trump won the election. We'll bring you that live once as soon as it gets under way.
[15:30:00] We'll be right back.
GORANI: Any moment now we expect the U.S. president to address reporters at the White House. Mr. Obama should take questions for the first time
since Tuesday's election before embarking on his final overseas trip as president. We don't have a 2-minute warning yet, but when we do, of
course, and when this starts, we will go right to the White House.
Also among the top stories we are keeping an eye on, Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, faced questions today over sexual assault
allegations in Sweden. He's been holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition. He was interrogated by an
Ecuadorian prosecutor, but this time with a Swedish prosecutor present.
And also at least two people after a series of earth quake struck New Zealand's south island. The first quake, a magnitude 7.8 hit just
after Monday on Sunday. The second, a 6.2 hit Sunday afternoon. Aftershocks were felt all the way to Wellington, New Zealand's capital on
the north island.
Two men, two very important jobs, equal in the eyes of the president elect. Steven Bannon will chief strategist and senior counselor to
President Trump. Reince Priebus will be Trump's chief of staff.
Priebus is the Republican Party chairman and a long-time Washington insider. Bannon is the chairman of Breitbart News and therefore a key
player in the rise of the Alt-Right, as it's called.
We have seen another familiar face in Trump Tower, the U.K. Independence Party's Nigel Farage. The Office of the British Prime
Minister says Farage will not be a go between for Trump and Theresa May, but he offered to do so apparently.
And all roads apparently lead to Trump Tower these days. That's been the scene of high profiles meetings and intense protests. CNN's
Rachael Crane is in New York and she joins us now live.
So let's talk a little bit first about these reports of hate crimes, harassment from some Trump supporters, minorities across the United States,
give us a sense of what has been reported so far?
RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, unfortunately, Hala, the Southern Poverty Law Center is saying that more than 300,000 incidents of harassment
and harmful intimidation have occurred since Donald Trump was elected president.
And perhaps most disturbingly more than 40 of those instances taking place at schools. Meaning it is children that are participating in this
We saw at a middle school in Michigan, children were chanting in a cafeteria build the wall, build the wall. That video receiving millions of
views on social media.
[15:35:10]Also at a high school in Minnesota, we saw hateful graffiti on a bathroom wall saying white America, go back to Africa, and make America
Also another high school in California, one student was handing out fake deportation letters to some of minority students there. He said that
it was all part of a joke. He even videotaped himself doing it, but of course, these hate crimes, this is --
GORANI: All right, Rachel, we have to go to the White House, President Obama is walking up to the podium.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.