The Latest: Obama says commutations help cut poverty cycle

AP News
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Posted: Aug 04, 2016 6:16 PM
The Latest: Obama says commutations help cut poverty cycle

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Barack Obama's news conference at the Pentagon Thursday (all times EDT):

6 p.m.

President Barack Obama says he shortened the sentences of more than 200 federal inmates this week to help cut the cycle of poverty and put families back together.

Almost all the 214 prisoners were serving time for nonviolent crimes related to drugs.

Obama says "the extraordinary rate of incarcerations of nonviolent offenders has created its own set of problems." He says communities have been ravaged, leaving kids without parents and perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

His push to lessen the burden on nonviolent drug offenders reflects his long-stated view that the U.S. needs to remedy the consequences of decades of onerous sentencing requirements that put tens of thousands behind bars for too long.

Some of the inmates had firearms violations, but Obama says the administration tried to screen out violent inmates.

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5:20 p.m.

President Barack Obama says Islamic State militants will probably continue to be a threat to the U.S. even after the group is ousted from key strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

Obama says the group may continue to inspire people to carry out lone wolf-type attacks on subways or parades to sow fear and elevate its profile.

He says the U.S. and its NATO allies must not succumb to fear and should "keep on grinding away" against the group.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the Bastille Day attack in Nice, France, last month that killed more than 80 people. It was also tied to the Orlando nightclub shootings that killed 49.

Obama was speaking to reporters after meeting with his national security team at the Pentagon.

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5:15 p.m.

President Barack Obama says the U.S. does not pay ransom for hostages.

Obama says a $1.7 billion claim settlement he approved with Iran wasn't a secret when it was finalized in January.

He says, "This wasn't some nefarious deal."

Obama was responding to the revelation, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, that $400 million of the settlement was delivered by plane to Iran in cash. The payment occurred around the time Iran released four American prisoners.

Obama says the timing of the deal was dictated by the assessment of American lawyers, who said waiting could end up costing American taxpayers billions of dollars.

He says the payment was cash because the U.S. has no banking relationship with Iran.

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5:10 p.m.

President Barack Obama is criticizing Russia for its continuing support of Syrian government attacks against opposition forces and its sieges of populated areas like Aleppo.

Obama says the Russian actions raise "very serious questions" about Moscow's commitment to pulling the situation "back from the brink."

Obama told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that the U.S. will continue to try to cooperate with Russia to reduce the violence and focus the fight on the Islamic State group and other extremists.

He is accusing Russia of failing to take the necessary steps to do that, though, adding that deteriorating conditions make it imperative for Russia to show it is serious.