The Latest: Obama chats with leaders of India, Afghanistan

AP News
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Posted: Jan 18, 2017 7:25 PM
The Latest: Obama chats with leaders of India, Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Barack Obama (all times EST):

9:15 p.m.

The White House says President Barack Obama has placed a pair of farewell telephone calls to the leaders of Afghanistan and India.

Obama thanked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his partnership and congratulated him on India's upcoming 68th Republic Day anniversary. Obama traveled to India as Modi's chief guest for the 2015 holiday.

The two leaders also reviewed cooperation on defense, civil nuclear energy, climate change and other issues Wednesday.

Obama also spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who was joined on the call by the country's chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah.

Obama expressed appreciation for the partnership between the U.S. and Afghanistan. He encouraged both leaders to continue working to enhance national unity and support a lasting peace and stability.

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3:16 p.m.

President Barack Obama says daughters do not intend to pursue a future in politics — thanks to the influence of his wife, Michelle.

But he says the girls "could not help but be patriotic" given the environment where they have grown up.

During Obama's eight years in office, the first lady became one of the most sought-after Democratic surrogates. But she detests politics and repeatedly has said she will never run for public office.

Obama says his daughters — 18-year-old Malia and 15-year-old Sasha — were disappointed in the outcome of the presidential election. Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton, who had been Obama's secretary of state.

He says he and his wife try to teach their daughters resilience.

The president says, "They don't mope."

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3:14 p.m.

President Barack Obama says that claims of voter fraud in the U.S. elections are "fake news," and that the U.S. is the only democracy that makes it harder for its citizens to vote.

Obama referred in his final presidential news conference to election fraud claims repeatedly raised by Donald Trump during his campaign. He didn't use is successor's name, but said claims of voter fraud have been "disproved."

Obama says there is an "ugly history" behind restrictive voting that traces back to the era of slavery.

Obama also warned that many Trump voters also feel disenfranchised. He says those people feel forgotten, looked down upon or fear that their children don't have the same opportunities as other Americans.

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3:06 p.m.

President Barack Obama says that economic equality is one of the reasons President-elect Donald Trump won his election.

Obama says in his final news conference as president that there are many people who voted for the president elect "because they feel forgotten and disenfranchised. They feel as if they're being looked down on.

He says, "You don't want to have an America in which a very small sliver of people are doing really well and everybody else is fighting for scraps." He says that's often "when racial divisions get magnified."

Obama also says that he expects to see a woman president, a Latino president, a Jewish president, a Hindu president and many others in the future.

He says he suspects "we'll have a whole bunch of mixed up presidents at some point that nobody knows really knows what to call them."

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3:04 p.m.

President Barack Obama says he doesn't think the expansion of LGBT rights in the U.S. is reversible.

Obama said as his final presidential news conference that society's attitudes have changed too much to turn back the clock on these issues.

He says there's still more work to do on the subject, but that acceptance by young people like his daughters has made a difference.

Obama also says he "could not be prouder" of the country's transformation on these issues, most of it coming during his tenure as president.

He gives credit to individuals and couples who he says were courageous in saying "this is who I am and I'm proud of it."

That, he says, helped open people's minds and hearts and the legal system eventually caught up.

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2:54 p.m.

President Barack Obama is warning that the "moment may be passing" for a two-state solution to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict.

Obama says in his final White House news conference that he continues to be worried that the "status quo is unsustainable" in Israel. He says his administration has tried to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution because he does not "see an alternative to it."

The United States decision to allow the United Nation's most powerful body to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem has been condemned by President-elect Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu.

Obama says the president-elect "will have his own policy" and that is his administration's prerogative. The president calls the situation in Israel "a volatile environment."

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2:50 p.m.

President Barack Obama says that United States underwent "a fundamental shift" in its relationship with Cuba.

But in his final press conference as president Wednesday, Obama adds that treating Cuban migrants differently "didn't make sense" in this day and age, saying it shouldn't make a difference whether migrants come to the U.S. by land or by foot.

Obama announced last week that he is ending a longstanding immigration policy that allows any Cuban who makes it to U.S. soil to stay and become a legal resident.

He says that opening up bilateral relations with Cuba last year ultimately would lead to a "serious improvement" in commerce and trade relations with Cuba.

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2:48 p.m.

President Barack Obama says that after he leaves office on Friday he wants to take time to process the "amazing experience" his family has gone through.

Addressing reporters at his final news conference, Obama says he wants to make sure that Michelle Obama, his wife of 24 years, is willing to "re-up" and put up with him a little bit longer.

He wants to write, be quiet a little bit and "not hear myself talk so darn much." He also wants to spend time with daughters Malia and Sasha.

Obama and his family will head for vacation in Palm Springs, California, after Donald Trump is sworn in as president.

The White House has not said how long they will stay in California before they return to a rented home in Washington.

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2:47 p.m.

President Barack Obama says he has had "cordial" talks with President-elect Donald Trump but he's under no illusions that they share many policy goals.

Obama says in his final White House news conference that Trump won the election opposed to many of his initiatives during the past eight years. The outgoing president says it's appropriate for Trump to move forward with his own vision and values.

Obama says, "I don't expect that there is going to be enormous overlap."

Obama is avoiding a question on whether he supports about 50 House Democrats planning to boycott Trump's inauguration. He says he'll be there along with outgoing first lady Michelle Obama.

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2:40 p.m.

President Barack Obama is calling on President-elect Donald Trump to continue trying to persuade Russia to reduce its nuclear stockpiles.

In his final press conference as president Wednesday, Obama said that he tried to negotiate further reducing nuclear arsenals with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but he says Putin was reluctant.

Obama is also calling on the next administration to lead by example and work to prevent big countries from "bullying" smaller countries.

He says that implementing sanctions on Russia following its incursion of Ukraine is a "good example of the vital role" America must play in advocating for and enforcing basic rights around the world.

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2:33 p.m.

President Barack Obama says the WikiLeaks website was not a factor in his decision to grant clemency to Chelsea Manning.

Obama on Tuesday commuted the 35-year sentenced given to the former Army intelligence analyst for leaking more than 700,000 classified and military documents to the anti-secrecy website. The website's founder, Julian Assange, had recently said he would agree to U.S. extradition if Obama granted clemency to Manning.

Obama said at the final news conference of his presidency that he examined Manning's case and thought that commuting her sentence was "entirely appropriate."

Manning is more than six years into her 35-year sentence. She is set to be released from prison in May.

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2:29 p.m.

President Barack Obama is defending his decision to commute convicted leaker Chelsea Manning's prison sentence, telling reporters that "justice has been served" in her case.

Obama says in his final news conference as president that Manning has already served a "tough prison sentence" and it will not make people think that they won't face punishment if they disclose vital classified information.

Republicans have assailed the decision, saying it sets a dangerous precedent for national security.

The former Army intelligence analyst asked Obama to commute her 35-year sentence for giving classified government and military documents to the WikiLeaks website.

Manning was known as Bradley Manning at the time of her 2010 arrest and is more than six years into the sentence. She is set to be released from prison in May.

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2:26 p.m.

President Barack Obama is thanking the journalists who have covered him in the White House, saying that "having you in this building has made this place work better."

In his final press conference as president Wednesday, Obama said of journalists, "you're not supposed to be sycophants. You're supposed to be skeptics. You're supposed to ask tough questions."

President-elect Donald Trump's transition team is considering holding briefings outside the White House briefing room, a proposal that is raising concern over whether it could result in limited White House access.

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2:25 p.m.

President Barack Obama is opening his final news conference by sending his thoughts and prayers to former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara.

Both Bushes are hospitalized in Houston. The 92-year-old former president was admitted for a pneumonia-related respiratory problem. His wife was hospitalized as a precaution.

Obama says the White House reached out to the Bush family after learning of the hospitalizations.

He says the Bushes have not only dedicated their lives to country, but have been a constant source of friendship, support and good counsel for him and first lady Michelle Obama.

Obama adds that "they are as fine a couple as we know."

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10:00 a.m.

President Barack Obama is expected to defend his decision to shorten the sentence of convicted leaker Chelsea Manning when he holds his final news conference on Wednesday.

Obama plans to answer reporters' questions at the White House, two days before he leaves office.

Manning asked Obama last November to commute her 35-year sentence for giving classified government and military documents to the WikiLeaks website.

Manning, who was known as Bradley Manning at the time of her arrest, is more than six years into the sentence. She will be released from prison in May.

Republicans have blasted the decision, with House Speaker Paul Ryan calling it "outrageous."

Ryan says Obama has set a "dangerous precedent" that anyone guilty of who compromises U.S. national security won't have to pay for their crimes.