Obama in End-of-year Press Conference: I Have Done My Best to End Syria War

'Assad's regime cannot slaughter its way to legitimacy,' Obama says ■ WATCH: "Reagan would roll over in his grave" (54:00)

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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to journalists as he participates in his last news conference of the year at the Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., December 16, 2016.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to journalists as he participates in his last news conference of the year at the Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., December 16, 2016. Credit: Carlos Barria, Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama is holding his final end-of-year press conference at the White House before leaving for his annual family vacation in Hawaii.

Obama opened the conference by summing up his administration's foreign policy achievements, including Osama Bin Laden's assassination, the nuclear deal with Iran, and the fact that no foreign organization successfully carried out a terror attack on U.S. soil during his tenure.

Obama said that the "blood and atrocities" in Aleppo are on Russia and Syria's hands. He called for full access for humanitarian aid and a broader cease-fire that would be the basis for a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

He said that the "world must not avert its eyes" from the terrible events in Syria and accused the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies of trying to obfuscate the atrocities.

Over the long term, Obama said, the Assad regime cannot slaughter its way to legitimacy.

Asked whether he feels personal responsibility for the carnage, the president said that "I always feel responsible" for issues around world, but insisted that he has "taken the best course I can to try to end the civil war while taking into account the long term national interest of the United States."

He said he considered every option in Syria but decided against "putting large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground, uninvited, without any international law mandate, without sufficient support from Congress."

"Unless we were all in and we were willing to take over Syria, then we were going to have problems," he said.

Responding to questions about Russian hacking of Democratic officials' email accounts during th election, Obama said that there wasn't an elaborate espionage scheme.

"They hacked into democratic party emails with routine but some embarrassing material," he said, suggesting that the hacked materials were an "obsession" that dominated media coverage.

Obama said that once he confronted Russian leader Vladimir Putin in September about Moscow's efforts to influence the U.S. presidential election, he saw no further evidence of Russian tampering.

Obama spoke to Putin during the G20 summit in China in September and told him to "cut it out" and warning of consequences if it continued. He said he has had similar conversations in the past with Chinese leader Xi Jinping about hacking U.S. companies.

Obama expressed hope that Trump will be concerned about not having foreign influence on U.S. elections in the future.

He would not say whether he thought the email leaks cost Clinton the election.



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