AP/KSLA - President Barack Obama on Friday warned against turning Russian hacking in the United States into a "political football" and said he hoped his successor, Republican Donald Trump, will take foreign influence in American elections seriously once he takes office.
In his final news conference of the year, Obama also chided the media for what he called its "obsession" with the flood of hacked Democratic emails that were made public during the campaign. However, he stopped short of blaming the hacking for Democrat Hillary Clinton's stunning loss to Trump.
On a major foreign topic, Obama called on the world to "not avert its eyes" to the crisis in Syria, saying stopping the civil war there was "one of the hardest issues I've faced as president." He blisteringly blamed Russia and Iran, both allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad, for blocking efforts to stem the bloodshed.
"This blood and these atrocities are on their hands," he said as he addressed reporters from the White House briefing room shortly before leaving on his annual Christmas vacation to Hawaii.
The president is ending his eighth year in office with his own popularity on the rise, though Trump's election is expected to unwind many of Obama's policies. He's leaving his successor a stronger economy than he inherited, but also the intractable conflict in Syria and troubling issue of whether Russia was meddling in the U.S. election to back Trump.
Obama said he has raised the hacking with Russian President Vladimir Putin and has vowed that Washington will retaliate. However, he offered no new details about the extent of any response or when it is expected.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded with "high confidence" that Russia interfered in the election on Trump's behalf. The president-elect has disputed that conclusion, setting up a potential confrontation with lawmakers in both parties.
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In years past, Obama has stayed on at the podium longer during his year-end news conferences and answered a wider range of questions from reporters.
After the news conference, the First Family will depart the White House for their annual Christmas and New Year's vacation to Hawaii.